Yes, the Denver locker room was a happy place on Friday night. And it might stay that way for a while if the Nuggets keep playing like this.
The Nuggets showed little hangover affect from Thursday night’s victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Denver led 12-0 before the game was three minutes old and took a 61-52 lead into halftime.
“The season has games you’re supposed to win and should win and all that stuff,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “But what it comes down to is they’re all difficult. I think this was a very good win for us.”
Minnesota has lost a season-worst seven straight and is off to the worst start in franchise history at 4-28. Reserve Rashad McCants led the Timberwolves with a career-high 34 points, and Al Jefferson had 24 points and 15 rebounds.
“We played hard but we just gave up too many easy points,” Wolves guard Marko Jaric said. “Fast breaks, alley-oops, lobs, they definitely cost us. We did play hard but it’s hard to win when you allow that many easy points.”
Carter, a former Minnesota guard and one of the stars of Thursday’s victory, hit his first four shots and finished with a season-high 11 assists and 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. The veteran point guard ignited Denver’s fast start by pushing the ball up the court and was a big reason the Nuggets outscored Minnesota 24-4 on the fast break.
“We all know that Minnesota is struggling right now,” Carter said. “We wanted to come out with the same intensity and energy that we did against San Antonio. The win last night wouldn’t have meant anything if we didn’t come in here and win.”
Denver went inside often, finishing with 64 points in the paint. Still, the Wolves managed to cut the deficit to six with three minutes left in the fourth.
But consecutive baskets from Iverson, who had 11 points in the final quarter, squashed any hopes for a Wolves comeback.
“When you’re not winning games, things tend to go wrong at the end of games,” Iverson said. “We were just fortunate that they couldn’t make the plays at the end of the game.”
Looking for some offense to complement Jefferson, Minnesota coach Randy Wittman started Jaric and Sebastian Telfair in the backcourt. The duo struggled, shooting a combined 5-for-20, but McCants provided a spark off the bench.
The third-year guard totaled just 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting in his three previous games before looking sharp on Friday.
“He came out and he was playing aggressive tonight,” Wittman said. “He had his motor going, playing at a higher energy level. That has to be a constant. I’m not talking about just the points, I’m talking about the effort and the energy.”
Kenyon Martin, who recently returned from an injury and is being worked back into the rotation, finished with 11 points for Denver and looked sharp during a stretch in the third quarter where he scored seven points. Kleiza added 17 off the bench.
“The thing with everyone healthy on our team is that we have a lot of versatility, a lot of different ways we can play,” Karl said. “I think right now we are just starting to feel who we can become and what we can become. Hopefully we will keep a mental focus of getting better every night and winning the games and if we lose, making sure that teams beat us.”
Ryan Gomes had his third straight solid game for Minnesota, finishing with 15 points.
Anthony notched his 1,000th career assist and became the sixth-leading scorer in Nuggets history. … Carter had 10 of his assists by halftime. … Wolves injured guard Randy Foye will have his knee re-evaluated on Monday. … Jefferson celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday.