Wolves waste an opportunity

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2012 - 10:47 AM

The Wolves could have moved over the .500 mark and entered the playoff picture, but they fell short against the depleted Nuggets.

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DENVER - The Timberwolves possessed every opportunity Monday night to not only surpass .500 once again but also match in a mere 33 games last season's 17-victory total.

Then they watched all that -- and perhaps even the right to mention that "p" word, playoffs -- brush right past them in the night with a 103-101 overtime loss to a depleted Nuggets team in Denver.

The Wolves played their first overtime game of the season on a night when center sensation Nikola Pekovic sprained his ankle in the first quarter, left the game in the second and never returned.

The hurting Nuggets played their second overtime in two nights, just 25 hours after they lost at Oklahoma City to a Thunder team that needed 51 points from Kevin Durant, 40 from Russell Westbrook and a triple-double from Serge Ibaka just to beat them by six points.

On Monday, the Nuggets once again started without injured Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Rudy Fernandez. Then they lost their top two point guards when Ty Lawson sprained his ankle in the second quarter and Andre Miller was ejected late in the third quarter and forged on into the fourth quarter and even into overtime with only rookie Julyan Stone left to run the show.

Still, they persevered, outlasting the Wolves on an evening that more closely resembled mud wrestling than high-octane professional basketball despite Al Harrington's 31 points off the bench for the Nuggets.

With a victory, the Wolves would have reached the 17 they won last season and would have caught the Nuggets, who are fighting Portland for what now would be the West's eighth and final playoffs spot.

"Today was a great opportunity," Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said. "We had a chance to beat a playoff team and make a big step in the fight for the playoff, but we didn't."

The Wolves led 16-8 and 22-10 early and led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter. Then Pekovic was lost for the night, and without him the Wolves struggled to keep pace with the Nuggets on the backboards.

They also struggled all night to make a shot, no more so than when Luke Ridnour broke free for a possible tying layup with 17 seconds left in overtime and watched it roll off the rim.

"I couldn't believe it didn't go in," Ridnour said after his team shot 36 percent. "I thought it was in. It's just one of those things."

Neither team scored a point in the overtime's first three minutes. Then the final 17 seconds turned into a free-throw contest that left the Wolves down by five with 8.8 seconds remaining and then still with the chance to tie the score in the final five seconds.

The Nuggets had the ball, a timeout and a 102-99 lead with 4.9 seconds left. Martell Webster stole the ensuing inbounds pass and -- to the astonishment of Wolves fans -- he went down the floor for a slam dunk that left the Wolves one point shy with 1.3 seconds left.

"We talked about we needed a three," Adelman said. "I think he caught the ball, stole it and maybe emotions got the best of him."

Webster afterward said he was well aware of the time and situation. He said he hoped to either create a foul and three-point play or score with enough time to foul the Nuggets yet again.

"I don't know, I don't know if it was a mental thing, like I shot [a three] before that and didn't knock it down," said Webster, who missed a three with the score tied with 53 seconds left. "I just wanted to be aggressive, get to the rim, possibly get a foul. But I didn't.

"Most people probably would have pulled up for the three-point shot. Yeah, I can see why they would. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably pull up for a three. Why not?"

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  • Andre Miller (left), Martell Webster

  • DENVER 103, WOLVES 101 (OT)

    Up next: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Utah • Target Center • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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