The streaky Denver Nuggets ended a three-game skid with their most impressive victory of the season their last time out. They'll try to build on it Wednesday night when they visit the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves, a team they've dominated in recent years.
Denver (5-6) snapped its slide by defeating Memphis 97-92 on Monday, ending the Grizzlies' eight-game winning streak and dealing them their first home loss. Danilo Gallinari scored a season-high 26 points and hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to seal the victory.
The Nuggets' victory fit with the early theme of their season. Denver, which bounced back from a lackluster 126-100 loss at San Antonio on Saturday, had sandwiched a four-game winning streak between three-game skids prior to Monday.
"We've had a rough (first) 10 games," point guard Ty Lawson said. "For (Gallinari's) shot to go in was big for us, for our morale. To get a big one like this is huge."
Denver is battling to stay competitive during a road-heavy first six weeks. The Nuggets play 17 of their first 23 away from home, where they are 3-5 thus far.
"This is the first game on the road where I think we executed at a high level both offensively and defensively," coach George Karl told the team's official website. "... We've got to get better at making shots and I think we will once we win games, and I think confidence comes by winning."
One area where the Nuggets haven't been inconsistent is under the basket. Denver leads the league in total rebounding at 49.3 per game, offensive rebounds at 16.8 and points in the paint at 52.2.
The Nuggets overpowered the Grizzlies on the boards, winning that battle 47-33 and 21-12 on the offensive glass. Kenneth Faried, the NBA leader with 63 offensive rebounds, had seven among his 13 boards and added 13 points.
Denver could be in for another big night on the glass as Minnesota is averaging just 40.4 rebounds, and that's only one of several factors that bode well for the Nuggets on Wednesday.
Denver has won nine of 10 meetings in Minneapolis and 19 of 21 overall against its Northwest Division rival. The Nuggets will also be facing a banged-up Timberwolves team that has reverted to form after a fast start.
Minnesota has gone 1-3 since winning four of its first five, averaging 88.8 points in the last four games. It averaged 96.3 in the first four victories.
The Wolves appear to be wearing down due to injuries that have left them with nine players for the last three contests.
"We're running out of gas a little bit," forward Andrei Kirilenko said after a 106-98 loss to Golden State on Friday.
Working in the Timberwolves' favor is a well-timed four-day break. Center Nikola Pekovic is expected back Wednesday and could make it more difficult for Denver to dominate down low, while guard J.J. Barea could also return. The Wolves, though, are still missing guards Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio along with forwards Kevin Love and Chase Budinger.
"We're really just trying to focus on our team and get better defensively," point guard Luke Ridnour told the team's website. "The last couple games we kind of slipped away from that. We can't worry about guys coming in and out; we just have to focus on what we have now. And we have to get back to what made us good."