DENVER (AP)—Denver’s reserves kept the Nuggets within reach of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
No matter. Boykins picked up the slack when Lenard went down and forward Chris Andersen played with his usual scrappiness after missing six games with a knee injury. Jon Barry and Rodney White added 10 points each, giving the Nuggets a season-high 48 from the reserves.
“The bench came back and gave us a lot of energy,” said Anthony, who had six rebounds. “Chris came off the IR and gave us a lot of energy along with Barry and Boykins. They were a big help.”
Denver shot just 30 percent in a 21-point loss to Minnesota on Sunday, and wasn’t much better this time. The Nuggets spent a good portion of the game standing around on offense and shot just 36 percent.
Denver made up for it by pushing the pace at every opportunity and finishing with just six turnovers—none in the first half. The Nuggets had a 30-9 advantage in fast-break points to move a half-game ahead of Utah, which lost to Seattle 84-77.
“I thought we played desperately today,” Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “That’s how we have to play. We scored 101 points and only shot 37 (36.8) percent. We had a good pace to the game.”
But for all of Denver’s work, the Nuggets couldn’t shake Minnesota until the closing seconds.
The Timberwolves shot 46 percent to keep Denver’s lead under double figures, then closed to 95-92 on Kevin Garnett’s 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. They just couldn’t get any closer.
Andre Miller followed Garnett’s 3 with two free throws to put Denver up 97-92, then Anthony stole an inbounds pass and called timeout before falling out of bounds with 14 seconds left.
“We turned it over too much and gave them a lot of transition points,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said after watching team turn it over 21 times. “Defensively, when a team shoots 36 percent against you, you should have the opportunity to win the game. We didn’t take care of the ball.”
Garnett finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds, but was clearly frustrated by the Nuggets’ physical play. Denver fronted him in the post with plenty of help on the weakside, then knocked him around when he did get the ball.
Garnett was called for a technical foul in the second quarter for throwing an elbow at Anthony, and had a few words for the officials after being hit in the head by Michael Doleac a few minutes later.
“I think for the most part they got the majority of the calls,” said Garnett, who took just 12 shots. “We just have to play through it. That took us out of our rhythm a little bit. You can’t use it as an excuse.”
Andersen was a big part of the frustration.
Activated from the injured list before the game, he banged Garnett around in the post and scrambled around to keep balls alive and grab offensive rebounds.
He finished with nine rebounds—four on offense—and plenty of floor burns.
“I was out for six games and all I did was build up energy,” Andersen said.
The diminutive Boykins always seems to have energy.
Denver had to go to a small lineup after Lenard’s injury, but Boykins used his quickness to get open for shots and hound Minnesota’s point guards.
He shot 8-for-15, including a halfcourt heave to beat the shot clock late in the first quarter and a scoop shot that put the Nuggets up 93-85 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the game.
The 5-foot-5 Boykins also created plenty of problems for Sam Cassell. The Timberwolves’ point guard was called for a technical in the first quarter and had just six points on 3-of-10 shooting with seven turnovers before fouling out with four minutes left.
“Earl Boykins is a momentum shifter. He’s my sixth man of the year,” Garnett said. “He comes in and changes the game.”
Anthony was his usual self.
Trenton Hassell held him to 6-of-22 shooting on Sunday, but the rookie got the better end of the deal this time.
Anthony opened with a turnaround over Hassell, knocked down a long jumper after losing Hassell with an up-fake, then had a three-point play on a two-handed reverse dunk after scooping up a loose ball.
Anthony finished the first half with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Cassell is 5-for-21 the past two games. … Lenard was injured when he landed on Cassell after biting on an up-fake. … Anthony passed 1,500 points for the season (1,503). … Minnesota had won eight straight over Denver,including the first three this season.