Wolves’ bench leads the way in 130-115 win against Nuggets
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jarred Vanderbilt scored 18 points against his former team, Taurean Prince had 23 and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ bench led the way in a 130-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, but the Timberwolves’ reserves outscored Denver’s 48-17 through the first three quarters. Minnesota’s second unit took advantage when Denver star Nikola Jokic rested in the first half to take a commanding lead the Timberwolves wouldn’t relinquish.
Minnesota used a 26-8 run covering the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second, with Prince, Jordan McLaughlin and Naz Reid contributing off the bench. In all, the Wolves went on a 25-7 run while Jokic was on the bench.
“I think that group has a lot of confidence,” Prince said. “We just come in with confidence that we’re one of the best players on the floor. We feel like we can each start in this league. So, I think the fact that you have guys that feel highly about their game and actually put in the work on a daily basis. And then to see it all happen how it’s happening, it’s just a testament to the everyday work that we consistently put in.”
McLaughlin had nine points and seven assists. Reid added 12 points.
“We’ve kind of gone more to a bench unit that doesn’t have any mixed lineup component to it, and they’ve really pushed ahead,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “They’ve taken some games and really pushed ahead in them. They just move the ball because they need ball movement, and they play quick and they get out in transition and they really spread the floor. It’s super hard to guard at times.”
Jokic finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, but sat the entire fourth quarter with Minnesota’s lead ballooning to 30 and the Nuggets playing the first game of a back-to-back. Denver had its five-game winning streak snapped.
“The game was lost in that second quarter,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously our bench unit that came in, their bench dominated our bench in that first half.”
With the reigning MVP on the court, the Nuggets held the advantage in the first despite some sloppy ball handling. Jokic accounted for 75% of his team’s points in the first, he scored seven points and had six assists.
But Denver also had nine turnovers in the first. The Wolves couldn’t capitalize much until Malik Beasley hit a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter for a 30-28 lead. Minnesota had just seven points on the nine turnovers.
The Wolves outscored the Nuggets 39-23 in the second.
“I think it starts with the approach,” Malone said. “I think those guys were geeked up, ready to play, were the aggressor. They had us on our heels, I felt, most of the night. They were the more physical team. Literally, that second unit in the first half just moved the ball, got open 3s, got whatever they wanted. We couldn’t score to save our lives in that quarter and we couldn’t get any stops.”
Vanderbilt came to the Wolves along with Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez in a 2020, four-team trade that sent Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and a first-round draft pick that became Zeke Nnaji to Denver.
Vanderbilt, the lanky power forward, has blossomed in his fifth NBA season as a defense-first stalwart in the Wolves’ starting lineup with stars Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell.
Vanderbilt took charge on the offensive end, though, in the first, to keep Minnesota afloat. He had 10 points in the quarter to go with three rebounds and two steals.
Nuggets: C DeMarcus Cousins missed his second straight game with a right foot sprain. Jokic played despite being questionable with right toe soreness. … After the nine turnovers in the first, Denver had just three the rest of the way.
Timberwolves: G Patrick Beverley returned to the lineup after missing five games with a right ankle sprain. … Russell missed his third straight game with a left shin contusion and G Josh Okogie was held out for the second straight game with a right quad contusion. … Prince hit 6 of 9 from 3. … Minnesota’s bench scored at least 50 points for the third straight game.
Nuggets: Finish a six-game road trip Wednesday at Utah.
Timberwolves: Start a home-and-home series with the Pistons at Detroit on Thursday.
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