DENVER (AP)—A raucous crowd, plenty of pushing and shoving, and even more jawing. The rematch between Denver and Minnesota sure looked a whole lot like last year’s playoff series.
One difference: The Nuggets won.
Earl Boykins hit a jumper with 6.8 seconds left in overtime and Carmelo Anthony had 19 points and 14 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets win their home opener 94-92 over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.
“We played tonight like a team that wasn’t afraid,” said Boykins, who finished with 14 points and six assists.
Denver had trouble shooting in its first game without Voshon Lenard, who tore his Achilles’ tendon in Tuesday night’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets shot just 38 percent against a variety of Timberwolves’ defenses and missed six straight attempts in overtime before Boykins’ winner from the wing.
But the Nuggets found a way to pull it out after the disappointing loss to the Lakers, getting 18 points and 13 rebounds from Kenyon Martin in his home debut with Denver and 19 points from Andre Miller.
“It was a gutty win by our basketball team,” Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “They kept hanging in there and fought through it.”
Kevin Garnett had 25 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots, but he couldn’t come through on Minnesota’s final shot. Last year’s NBA MVP was short on a turnaround jumper after tying the game at 88 on a jump hook with 10.5 seconds left in regulation.
“I thought I had a pretty clean look at it,” Garnett said. “It felt good when it left my hand, but I just missed it.”
Trenton Hassell scored 17 points and hassled Anthony most of the night— just as he did in last season’s playoffs. Denver’s second-year star was just 5-for-25 and came up short on Denver’s final shot in regulation.
It wasn’t the only similarity to the playoffs.
Minnesota beat Denver in that testy, five-game series, and neither team seemed to forget the animosity, jawing at each other from the start.
Garnett and Francisco Elson, two of the antagonists from last season, picked up where they left off in the third quarter, yelling at each other after Elson hit Garnett in the face on a hard foul.
It heated up even more late in the fourth, when Minnesota’s Sam Cassell was ejected for throwing the ball at Martin, who had shoved Cassell for a hard foul on Boykins.
“This isn’t a rivalry,” said Cassell, who had six points on 3-of-14 shooting. “It would be a rivalry if they had beaten us more, but they only beat us today and that’s just one game so far. We respect them and they respect us, but there isn’t any bad blood.”
The fans also picked up where they left off last May, filling the arena with cheers and signs well before the opening tip.
Blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd got the crowd worked up with a rowdy rendition of the national anthem, and celebrities such as John Elway, Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic and Denver Broncos receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie helped provide a party-like feel.
It seemed to be just what Denver needed after the sluggish, 89-78 loss to Los Angeles.
Feeding off the festive atmosphere, the Nuggets worked hard off cuts, went harder to the rim and were far more aggressive defensively than they were against the Lakers. The result was easier shots, with Denver hitting its first four and opening an 18-10 lead.
“The crowd inspired us,” Bzdelik said.
But the good vibes didn’t last.
The Nuggets missed 11 of their final 13 shots in the first quarter and shot just 36 percent in the first half. Denver wasn’t much better defensively, allowing Minnesota plenty of open jumpers and easy shots inside.
As for the Timberwolves, they played it just like last year’s playoff series: weathering Denver’s early rush and sticking to their game plan of working the ball through Garnett in the post.
The Nuggets did plenty of double-teaming against Garnett, who had just six points at halftime, but that created open shots for other players. Minnesota shot 10-of-16 in the first quarter and only cooled slightly in the second, shooting 52 percent to take a 47-42 halftime lead.
“Denver didn’t beat us tonight, we beat ourselves,” Minnesota coach Flip
Denver has won eight straight regular-season games at home. … Minnesota is 4-12 in road openers.