Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 102
Soaring through the air for a jaw-dropping, 360-dunk off an alley-oop pass, J.R. Smith showed everyone what teammate Chauncey Billups already knew - the Denver Nuggets are so much more than a two-man team.
Billups scored 25 points and got a huge lift from role players Smith, Chris Andersen and Nene in the Nuggets' 110-102 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
``Sometimes J.R. is going to have it rolling and I can take a back seat, just facilitate,'' Billups said. ``Sometimes other guys will be going. That's the beauty of a team.''
Andersen had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Nene had 17 points and nine boards and Smith scored 15 to shake the Nuggets out a first-half funk and deliver their fourth straight win.
Al Jefferson had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost their seventh straight game and 13th in the last 14. Minnesota has won once since Feb. 6.
``Losing, it weighs on you,'' said coach Kurt Rambis, whose Timberwolves lost for the 51st time. ``Everybody's frustrated. This is where you look at people's character and see what they do. Your options are to roll over or to fight.''
Corey Brewer scored 21 points, but the Timberwolves shot 39 percent, which negated a 53-43 advantage on the boards.
Anthony added 19 points, but it was the contributions of his supporting cast that proved to be the most important for the short-handed Nuggets.
With coach George Karl watching from home while he undergoes treatment for neck and throat cancer, the Nuggets started sluggish against another struggling team and trailed by eight points with less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Smith started the comeback for the Nuggets, hitting 3-pointers on three straight possessions to cut an eight-point deficit to one in the third quarter. Andersen's two free throws gave the Nuggets a 70-69 lead, their first since the opening quarter.
Neither Billups nor Anthony even attempted a shot in the first 6:30 of the final period, but thanks to Nene, Andersen and Smith, the Nuggets added to their lead.
``It was one of those games where we didn't have to shoot too much in the fourth quarter for us to win the game,'' Anthony said. ``J.R. had it going, we were spoon-feeding Nene down there. Games like this are a good time to get Nene and J.R., get the ball to Aaron (Afflalo), let them get their confidence up.''
Smith punctuated the night with his monster dunk, giving Denver a 12-point lead with 4:25 to go.
``That was one of the most impressive dunks I've ever seen,'' said Wolves forward Kevin Love, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. ``That's just freakishly athletic. Unbelievable.''
Karl had surgery on Monday to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach and more chemotherapy on Tuesday so assistant Adrian Dantley filled in for the second time this season. Denver also continues to play without Kenyon Martin (knee) and Ty Lawson (shoulder) and have fallen behind the surging Dallas Mavericks to second place in the West.
Ten of Denver's 21 losses this season have come to teams with a record below .500, and the Timberwolves were the aggressors early, leading 23-20 after the first quarter and 53-48 at the break.
But Love and Jefferson were scratching their heads after the game at the lack of adjustments by the coaching staff when the Nuggets went small in the second half. During one stretch, Love, to everyone's surprise, was guarding Anthony.
``I love Kevin Love, but I don't think he can guard Melo one-on-one,'' Jefferson said.
``Not many people can,'' Love said.
NOTES: The Timberwolves grabbed seven offensive rebounds and 18 overall in the first period. They had only four turnovers in the first half after 26 turnovers against Dallas on Monday night. ... Wolves C Darko Milicic grabbed 12 rebounds. ... Brewer extended his franchise record with a 3-pointer in 29 straight games in the first quarter. It's the third-longest active streak in the NBA behind Billups (33) and Houston's Aaron Brooks (36). ... In the ``Minnesota Nice'' department: A fan held a yellow and blue sign that read: ``Get Well Coach Karl.''