Minneapolis, MN – Danilo Gallinari led five Denver players in double figures with 19 points, as the Nuggets spoiled Kevin Love's season debut by sneaking away with a 101-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on Wednesday.
Gallinari shot 6-of-11 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds, while Andre Iguodala netted 18 to go with nine boards. Ty Lawson added 18 and nine assists for the Nuggets, who have won two straight on the heels of a three-game slide.
Jordan Hamilton and Andre Miller donated 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the triumph.
"I thought the second half was the best balanced basketball we've played all year," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We finally shot the ball at a high level. I think it's a great win."
Love saw game action for the first time this season after breaking his right hand while working out in the preseason. The All-Star big man did not miss a beat, scoring a game-high 34 points to go with 14 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost for the fourth time in five tries.
J.J. Barea netted 12 points and Nikola Pekovic scored 10 in defeat.
"It is great to be back," Love remarked. "The hand continues to feel better and hopefully I can continue to help the team."
Trailing by four entering the final quarter, the Nuggets quickly tied things with the first four points of the quarter. It remained a tight game until five straight points, capped by a Kenneth Faried slam, put Denver ahead, 92-87, with 3:07 left.
A putback by Love with 1:51 to go pulled the Wolves within 92-90, but four quick points by Miller and Gallinari pushed the lead back to six with 1:20 to go.
Barea missed a corner 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession and the Nuggets iced the game with free throws the rest of the way.
"We had a good first half, but it's a tale of two halves," Love continued. "We didn't get it done in the second half. They were tough, we have put it together for 48 minutes."
The contest remained close early, as it was tied at 10 with 6:17 left in the opening frame, but the Timberwolves pulled away by ripping off 11 straight points to build a comfortable 21-10 lead.
Denver cut it to six on a Kosta Kofus putback slam, but Barea drained a three at the horn to give the T'Wolves a 26-15 lead. In his first quarter of game action since his injury, Love put in 16 points and grabbed six boards.
Denver answered in the second stanza as a layup by Iguodala capped a small 6-0 burst to cut the Nuggets deficit to three with one tick under seven minutes to play in the half.
But, the T'Wolves had a response in the form of a 23-9 flurry, to reach their largest margin of the night at 58-41. Minnesota led by 14 at the break.
Denver opened the third quarter with a 14-2 burst, cutting the T'Wolves' lead to just two on an Iguodala 3-ball with 7:32 left in the session.
Minnesota built the lead back to five, but the Nuggets answered with an 11-5 push and a JaVale McGee stuff on the end of an alley-oop gave Denver a 69-68 lead with 2:11 to go.
Love ended the quarter with an offensive board and a putback for the Wolves, putting the home side up 73-69 heading to the final 12 minutes.
Denver shot 44.3 percent from the floor and 9-of-21 from three-point range ... Minnesota hit 38.2 percent of its shots and especially struggled from the free throw line, making just 16-of-25 from the stripe ... Love last played on April 11, 2012. He went scoreless with three rebounds in that contest ... Denver outscored Minnesota in the paint, 48-36.