After blowing late fourth-quarter leads against the Portland Trailblazers and Toronto Raptors in their previous two games, the Nuggets were able to stave off another late rally, this time by the Minnesota Timberwolves, as Denver ultimately pulled out a 102-99 victory for their second road win of the young season.
After leading 97-87 with 6:35 remaining, the Timberwolves pulled to within two points at 99-97, but a Mudiay drive and-1 layup followed by subsequent Minnesota misfires sealed the Nuggets win.
Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 19 points and five rebounds on an efficient 6-9 shooting. Jusuf Nurkic, continuing his impressive season and scored 18 points on 13 shots and grabbed five rebounds. Wilson Chandler also chipped in a season-high 19 points off the bench.
For Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 32 points, 22 of which came in the first half and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
The first half started the same way Denver's previous three games did. The Nuggets allowed the opposition's best player to do whatever he felt like and tonight that role was played by Towns. It did not matter if it was Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic or Jusuf Nurkic covering the reigning rookie of the year tonight. He feasted on all who opposed him.
The Nuggets had five players score over seven points in the first half and their bench outscored the Timberwolves 27-5 keeping the game close with Minnesota up 61-55. The Nuggets allowed Andrew Wiggins, Towns, and Zach LaVine to score 51 of the Timberwolves 61 total first-half points.
As the Nuggets have done in their three previous three games, they came out of halftime playing their best basketball. Behind a 24-5 run, Denver held the Timberwolves to 0-8 from beyond the arc and the Nuggets managed to take their lead to 13 points during the quarter. Denver outscored the Timberwolves 33-14 in the third and lead 88-75 behind 18 points from Nurkic and 19 from Gallinari.
The Timberwolves started to remember that they are allowed to score on the offensive end and slowly crawled back into the game in the fourth due to the Nuggets turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Nemanja Bjelica suddenly became a one-man offensive wrecking crew and combined with the Nuggets inability to score, the Timberwolves cut Denver's lead to two with just two minutes left.
The Nuggets traded baskets with the Timberwolves but Mudiay's layup with 1:47 remaining too much to overcome. Bjelica's three-point attempt to tie the game as time expired rolled in and out.
Jamal Murray, starting his first game of his career, did not have a good game scoring the ball. He was 0-8 from the field and 0-4 from three-point territory and has yet to make an NBA bucket. He did have four assists and one turnover and looked good as a facilitator.
Jokic only played a total of 14 minutes tonight and why such a low number is completely unknown at this point. While Towns was attacking him on defense, Jokic still had eight points, five assists, three rebounds and only one turnover. His lack of playing time and difficulty meshing with the new starting five has gone from slight worry to full blown issue and it is coach Michael Malone's task to figure out how to maximize Jokic's effectiveness within the current Nuggets roster.
WHEN AND WHERE
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota | November 3rd, 2016 | Regular Season Game No. 4
NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME
Nurkic was again too much for the opposition to handle down low. His ability to play both bully ball and with finesse is rare and the Bosnian Beast has seemingly learned to balance the two different styles of play. Nurkic had 18 points on 7-13 shooting, five rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and an assist in 26 minutes of action. While the Jokic-Nurkic front court has had a lot of difficulties defensively, it is borderline impossible to remove Nurkic from the starting lineup at this point after the way he's performed through four games.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
A big Nurkic block leads to a Faried slam off of Mudiay's assist.
Mudiay with a turn-around jump shot from the post.
Nurkic drops a perfect drop pass
Juacnho Hernangomez with his first points of his career off another good Nurkic pass.
Gallinari four-point play.
Mudiay with the game-sealing and-1.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Nuggets head to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Pistons and face another stiff frontcourt test; this time it's Andre Drummond that Jokic and Nurkic will have to contend with. Tipoff is at 5 PM MST on Saturday, November 5.