DENVER (AP)—The Minnesota Timberwolves finally put an end to their long losing spell, and they did it against a team that had owned them over the last three years.
“Man, you don’t know how much a weight is off our shoulders right now,” Gomes said. “It was tough for us, but we had to battle. We knew it was going to break one day.”
The shock was it came against the Nuggets, who had won their previous 10 meetings against Minnesota and had been dominating at home, where they’d won 17 regular season games in a row dating to last spring.
After his team scored 12 points in the third quarter—a season-low for points in a period—to blow their 14-point halftime lead, Nuggets coach George Karl fumed over what he regarded as a lackluster effort.
“Tonight, we’re an embarrassment and we have to live with it for the next 48 hours,” Karl said, referring to when the Nuggets next play. He said his team failed to play hard, especially defensively, on every possession and that “the playing hard thing is driving me crazy.
“Tell me my play-hard team,” Karl said to reporters rhetorically. “Tell me the five guys that I can put on the court to play hard every possession. Tell me. I had it last year. I had a play-hard team last year. I don’t have a play-hard team this year and it’s making me very angry.”
On this night, at least, the Timberwolves were far removed from the bitterness and second-guessing.
“It’s big for us,” said Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. “But in the (Nuggets) grand scheme of things, their long season, where they’re going as a playoff team, it’s one tiny little drop in the ocean for them, something they can use to motivate and propel for future ballgames. For us, there’s nothing like a winning locker room. There’s a lot of relief in there.”
All five of Minnesota’s starters scored at least 10 points, with Corey Brewer(notes) and Jonny Flynn(notes) chipping in 16 points apiece in helping the Timberwolves register their first win since a season-opening victory against New Jersey. It was also their first road win of the season.
Carmelo Anthony(notes) matched a season-high with 19 points in the first quarter and finished with 32 but could not prevent the end of Denver’s longest winning streak at home since a 19-game run from Jan. 28-April 20, 1989.
“We got exactly what we deserved,” Martin said. “That team is not going to stop playing just because they lost 15 straight. That don’t matter. They are a professional team and they got pride and so we got exactly what we deserved— nothing more, nothing less.”
Make no mistake, though, the Timberwolves earned what they got.
Down by as many as 17 points in the first half and trailing 64-50 at the break, Minnesota rallied with a 14-0 run to start the third quarter, pulling into a 64-all tie on Flynn’s driving layup with 8:55 left in the period.
The Nuggets cut the deficit to 96-92 on Martin’s tip-in with 3:05 remaining but Brewer completed a three-point play on the Timberwolves’ ensuing possession.
Denver again got within four points on Anthony’s layup with 51.6 seconds left but the Timberwolves made five of six free throws down the stretch, including two each by Brewer and Flynn, to seal their first win against Denver since a 99-94 victory in Minnesota on Feb. 14, 2007.
“We came into the locker room and celebrated like we won a championship,” Flynn said. “Everyone was hugging each other. It was hard going through this slide but with a great locker room and great coaching staff, it helped us through it. It just feels good to get another win in the win column.”
NOTES: Anthony also scored 19 points in the fourth quarter against Portland on Oct. 29 … The Nuggets last lost a regular season home game on March 9 against Houston. Their home winning streak started March 11 against Oklahoma City. … With Denver’s loss at the Pepsi Center, Phoenix is the only NBA team without a home loss this season … The previous scoring high by a Timberwolves player this season was 24 by Oleksiy Pecherov(notes) on Nov. 11 against Boston. … With the win, Minnesota avoided tying the franchise record longest losing streak (16).