DENVER (AP)—Carmelo Anthony was missing at the end of the game again.
Kevin Garnett scored 27 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied for a 112-109 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night in a game that ended with Anthony misfiring four times in the final 14 seconds.
“When you’re out there scrambling, trying to make a prayer shot, it’s kind of hard,” Anthony said one night after being ejected in the third quarter of a one-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I wanted it. I wanted it. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t,” Anthony said. “I think I’ve got to get back into my game-winning shape.”
Anthony scored 28 points just 24 hours after being caught up in the league’s crackdown on bickering at officials. He stuck around for every second of this game, but couldn’t match his last-second magic that carried the Nuggets to five buzzer-beating wins last year.
Three of his misses in the closing seconds were from beyond the arc, the first of which didn’t sit well with his coach, George Karl, who had instructed his team to go for the quick two-pointer and the steal.
“It was definitely a quick-two situation,” Karl said. “I think with 18 seconds, we’ve got the ball, it’s just take it up the court and attack. If you fall into a good 3, you shoot it, but the 3s weren’t that good.”
Anthony missed from 24 feet, got his own rebound and missed the tip-in. The Nuggets got the board and Anthony missed from 26 feet with 3 seconds left, then had one last chance but was way off from 32 feet as the game ended.
“We’d probably would have fouled ‘Melo in that situation, but in such a scramble I was afraid they would call it and he’d hit the shot,” Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. “Carmelo is so good he’d hit the 3 and get the free throw, too.”
Garnett was the hero instead, going 9-of-16 from the field and 9-of-11 from the line as he took advantage of Kenyon Martin’s frustration. He also grabbed 15 boards, 13 defensive, for his 35th straight double-double, the longest streak in the NBA since Karl Malone’s 44 straight in 1982-83.
“Not much you can do,” Denver’s Marcus Camby said. “I thought K-Mart was doing a pretty good job on him, but he was getting the benefits of most of the calls. When he’s playing like that, you really can’t touch a guy. He was getting to the free throw line and knocking down free throws.”
Mark Blount’s off-balance jumper gave the Wolves a 112-109 lead with 28 seconds left, setting up the final scramble in which Anthony missed from all over.
“I believe if I get the ball in that situation I’m going to make the shot,” Anthony said.
Garnett was most proud of his passing, however.
“I quarterbacked the team in the fourth quarter when they converged on me,” he said. “I was like Peyton Manning. I got the ball to the right people.”
After Anthony had a three-point play and a 3-pointer 20 seconds apart to put Denver up 104-99, Garnett scored six straight points to put the Wolves ahead for good at 105-104 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.
Although Anthony didn’t find reason to argue with any calls against Minnesota, Martin did, and once again the Nuggets paid the price.
Martin picked up a technical foul with 3 minutes left for gesturing angrily at an official following his fifth personal, when he leaned on a fallen Garnett near the basket. Davis hit the technical and Garnett made three free throws to give the Wolves a five-point cushion.
“No question technical fouls again hurt us,” Karl said. “In a close ballgame, missing free throws and giving free throws is not the best advice to win a close game.”
Earl Boykins scored 15 of his 28 points in the first half as Denver took a 57-53 lead. … Nuggets fans got their first look at Nene since the 2004-05 season. The Brazilian forward sustained a season-ending knee injury three minutes into last year’s opener at San Antonio. He finished with 13 points in 22 minutes.