DENVER (AP) – Jamal Murray scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half, Mason Plumlee dished out eight of Denver’s season-high 40 assists and the Nuggets cruised to a 133-107 victory over the banged-up Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
Called out by coach Michael Malone after a lackadaisical performance at Golden State last week, the Nuggets starting unit responded by playing with more intensity.
Paul Millsap finished with 23 points, including a buzzer-beater from half-court to end the third quarter. Nikola Jokic added 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help Denver snap a two-game slide at Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets are hanging on to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 10 rebounds to pace a Timberwolves team that’s fading from playoff contention. Towns did a little bit of everything to keep the Timberwolves close until Denver pulled away in the third quarter. He had one play where he quickly applied the brakes to shake free from Jokic and then stepped back to hit a long jumper. Towns grinned on his way back down the floor.
Minnesota was light on guards with Derrick Rose (right elbow), Jeff Teague (left foot) and Andrew Wiggins (left quadriceps) all sidelined. The depleted guard situation meant more court time for Cameron Reynolds, a rookie out of Tulane who recently signed a second 10-day contract. He had 12 points in 25 minutes.
The starters for the Nuggets were a combined plus-78. This after going minus-95 against the Warriors.
At practice Monday, Malone had a heart-to-heart with his squad. He asked them what they wanted to achieve as they march toward their first postseason appearance since 2012-13 – simply settle for getting in or challenge for the top seed? At 28-6, the Nuggets have the best home record in the Western Conference.
“I didn’t give them a chance (to answer),” Malone said. “I said I’m tired of talking. All we do is talk, talk, talk – let’s start doing.”
Malone’s message was received.
“We need to just get back to playing together, screening for each other, playing for each other, passing,” Jokic said. “Just to play for someone else.”
Timberwolves: PG Tyus Jones had 16 points.
Nuggets: G Isaiah Thomas didn’t get into the game. … G Torrey Craig hurt his left arm while blocking a shot with 14 seconds remaining.
Towns and Jokic got tangled up after a blocked shot in the first quarter and tried to break free, leading to a whistle. The officials reviewed the play for a hostile act and eventually ruled it an inadvertent whistle.
USING THE HEARTBREAK
The Timberwolves beat the Nuggets in overtime last season in the final game of the season to earn the last playoff spot. Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders believes that’s been a big catalyst for Denver.
“A lot of times through any type of pain or hurt, good can come out of that if you come together as a group,” Saunders said. “They’ve done a good job this year … of staying together and really pushing themselves to a new level.”
Timberwolves: At Utah on Thursday. The Jazz lead the season series 2-1.
Nuggets: Host Dallas on Thursday. The Nuggets have won five straight at home against the Mavericks.
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