PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Timberwolves lead 2-1.
The Denver Nuggets have made the Pepsi Center a tough place for opponents to win.
They hope to continue that trend as they try to even their first-round series with the Minnesota Timberwolves at two games apiece.
Denver finished 29-12 at the Pepsi Center this season for their best home record since also going 29-12 three seasons ago.
On the strength of that home record, the Nuggets qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the 1994-95 season, but they had to start the postseason on the road against the top-seeded Timberwolves.
In Games 1 and 2 in Minneapolis, the Nuggets acted as if they were just happy to be in the playoffs, and lost both contests by 14 points.
That wasn’t the case in Game 3.
The Nuggets controlled the lane, the boards and the tempo, leading from start to finish for a 107-86 win over the Wolves on Saturday night.
Playing at home in the postseason for the first time in nine years, the Nuggets earned their first home playoff victory in a decade and avoided going down 3-0 in the series.
Anthony’s 24 points were seven more than he averaged in the first two games.
“The guy is only 19 years old. He is going to make mistakes and is trying to find what works for him,” Camby said. “I think he responded well tonight. He came out aggressive, which I was telling him all year—that he needs to stay aggressive with his shots.”
The Nuggets have won their last eight home games, dating to a March 7 loss to Indiana.
“We just wanted to send a message that we could play, too,” said Anthony, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Cleveland’s LeBron James. “We made it to the playoffs and it wasn’t no fluke.
“We’re here, we put our stuff on just like they put their stuff on and we’re going to bring it like they bring it. We knew the crowd was going to bring the energy, so we had to bring our energy on the court and just have fun out there and go back to playing basketball.”
Minnesota didn’t have fun, especially in the paint. The Nuggets outscored the Wolves 60-26 in the paint, 18-8 on second-chance points and 15-10 on the break.
“They manhandled us,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “They rebounded better than us. They did everything better than us. They had us completely out of character. I don’t know if we got caught up in the emotion of everything, but we didn’t function in the character that we needed to.”
That was particularly true of forward Kevin Garnett. He finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but wasn’t nearly as dominant as in the first two games when he averaged 25 points and 21 rebounds. He took 18 shots from the field Saturday after attempting 57 in Games 1 and 2.
“Me, as the No. 1 option, I really didn’t establish nothing to begin with,” Garnett said. “After the first couple of shots I really didn’t put them on their heels like I should have. It’s like a boxing match. You try to feel them out, try to pick your spots.”
Game 5 is Friday in Minneapolis with Game 6, if necessary, Sunday at Denver.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Timberwolves - 1st seed. Nuggets - 8th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Timberwolves - Garnett, 24.7 ppg, 17.7 rpg and 7.3 apg. Nuggets - Anthony, 19.3 ppg; Camby, 9.3 rpg; Nene, Miller and Earl Boykins, 3.7 apg.