Jokic, Nuggets regroup to rally past Timberwolves 123-116
DENVER (AP) Nikola Jokic showed his cool down the stretch after losing it earlier in the game.
Denver's big man shook off two second-quarter technical fouls - one for hanging on the rim and another for jawing at an official - to lead the Nuggets to the comeback victory. He also had 15 rebounds.
''That's part of basketball,'' Jokic said of the calls. ''You just forget it.''
And remember this: Teammate Will Barton's pregame advice.
''I tell him before every game, `Just go out there and win MVP. You could be the best player in the world if you want to,''' recounted Barton, who scored 20 points. ''When he's aggressive, it's over with.''
JaMychal Green had 17 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who squandered an 18-point lead in the first half and fell behind by eight in the third quarter. They went on a 15-0 run in the fourth to take control. Denver held Minnesota scoreless for more than five minutes during the decisive stretch.
D'Angelo Russell scored 33 points and Juancho Hernangomez added 25 against his former team. It was the fifth straight loss for the Timberwolves.
''We didn't play with a flow,'' Hernangomez said of the fourth-quarter struggles. ''We need that. We played really good the first three quarters. We have to watch film and figure it out for the next game.''
This game appeared headed toward a blowout when Denver opened a 49-31 lead with 7:30 remaining in the first half. But the Timberwolves caught fire behind the shooting of Hernangomez, who was acquired along with Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in a deal with Denver last February.
It was the second time in three days the teams faced each other. Denver beat the Timberwolves 124-109 in Minnesota on Sunday behind Jokic's triple-double.
Jokic entered this one leading the NBA in assists (12.8 per game) - and turnovers (5.3). The miscues come with the territory when he touches the ball so much, coach Michael Malone conceded. Although, Malone wants to see Jokic's assist-to-turnover ratio around 3-to-1.
''He understands he has to be better and I'm sure that he will,'' Malone said.
Timberwolves: Minnesota rookie Anthony Edwards scored 15 points. ... Beasley had 15 and Vanderbilt 11.
Nuggets: F Michael Porter Jr. missed a third straight game due to the league's health and safety protocols involving COVID-19. ... The Nuggets won a coach's challenge late in the third. P.J. Dozier's foul on a 3-point attempt was overturned. ... Denver attempted 45 free throws, its most in a non-overtime game since Jan. 3, 2016.
FLASHBACK TO '18
The last time Minnesota beat Denver was Game No. 82 to close out the 2018 season. That was a winner-goes-to-the-playoffs situation, with the Timberwolves prevailing in overtime.
''I don't think that game resonates at all with our guys anymore,'' Malone said.
Since then, Denver has captured back-to-back division titles.
''Even though we lost the game in our third year with a chance to go to the playoffs, there was no need to panic, there was no need to make wholesale changes,'' Malone explained. ''Everybody wants the get-rich-quick scheme. Sometimes you have to build it, let it grow and let it come together like we've done.''
Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said center Karl-Anthony Towns has ''progressed steadily'' from a dislocated left wrist, but wouldn't be available against Denver or again Thursday at Portland.
''He's doing a little bit more where he can kind of handle a basketball on the court,'' Saunders explained. ''Once we get back to Minnesota, we'll evaluate more, and get him around the team and see where he is at that point.''
Timberwolves: Minnesota has lost seven straight in Portland.
Nuggets: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
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