Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points and Jusuf Nurkic added 18 to help the Denver Nuggets outlast the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 102-99 victory on Thursday night.
Wilson Chandler added 19 points to lead an impressive performance by Denver’s second unit to erase a 15-point second-quarter deficit. The Nuggets outscored Minnesota 45-23 off the bench and shot 48 percent for their second win of the season.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 32 points and 14 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 25 for the Timberwolves, who gave away a lead of at least 15 points for the third time in four games this season. Nemanja Bjelica scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, but his 3-pointer at the buzzer went in and out.
Denver has had its own issues with giving away leads, and it looked like it was headed that way again when the Wolves came back from 13 down with eight minutes to play to pull within 102-99 with 90 seconds to go.
But Emmanuel Mudiay converted a three-point play and the Wolves missed three 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the final 30 seconds to help the Nuggets hold on. Jameer Nelson had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and Mudiay finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The Nuggets trailed by 15 in the second quarter, before rallying against the Timberwolves. Minnesota led by 17 in the season opener against Memphis and 18 at Sacramento, but lost both games.
Denver outscored Minnesota 33-14 in the third quarter to surge to a 13-point lead, with Nurkic bulling his way to the paint and Gallinari knocking down 3s from the perimeter.
But the Nuggets have been just as shaky with the lead in this young season, including letting an eight-point lead slip away against Portland in the final 90 seconds before losing in overtime.
Nuggets: G Will Barton missed the game with a sprained left ankle and backup G Gary Harris was out with a strained right groin. … Rookie Jamal Murray started for Barton. … F Darrell Arthur made his season debut after sitting out the first three games and the preseason while recovering from surgery on his left knee. He had two points in nine minutes.
Timberwolves: Minnesota scored a season-high 37 in the first quarter. For the season, the Wolves are averaging 33.0 points on 60 percent shooting in the first 12 minutes. … Gorgui Dieng had a rough night with two points in 28 minutes and picking up a Flagrant-1 when he hit Nurkic in the throat in the third quarter.
A mini-drama broke out between the Nuggets and Timberwolves this summer. Assistant coach Ed Pinckney was on Michael Malone’s staff in Denver last season, but has a long history of working with Tom Thibodeau, who took over in Minnesota. At one point the Nuggets offered Pinckney a bump in pay to stay on, but after initially agreeing, Pinckney ultimately decided he wanted to leave for Minnesota.
Pinckney’s change of heart didn’t sit well with the Nuggets, who dug their heels in. The two teams went back and forth for a month. The NBA ultimately got involved and Pinckney did not officially join the Wolves until after training camp started, getting a sizable raise from what he was making in Denver.
Nuggets: Visit Detroit on Saturday.
Timberwolves: Visit Oklahoma City on Saturday.
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