Sore Wolves put the hurt on Denver ahead of All-Star break

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2014 - 12:11 AM

Minnesota had the better depleted lineup, riding a 17-3 start.

This outcome was going to stick with them for a week, no matter what. With the All-Star break looming, the Wolves were going to either relish this — or let it fester — for a while.

So it felt good.

Facing a Denver team even more banged up than they are, the Wolves took out their frustration over a four-game losing streak in a 117-90 laugher that, for the moment, dropped the pressure in the locker room at least a little bit.

“We got off to a good start and never looked back,” said Kevin Love, who got off to a great start himself. Love scored 32 points with 11 rebounds and eight assists, sending himself to All-Star weekend in style. “We needed a game like this.”

Love wasn’t alone.

Ricky Rubio took a hit — a first-quarter Randy Foye elbow to the chin that took five stitches to close — and kept ticking. He hit his first four shots, finished with 11 points, 12 assists and seven steals, then joked about letting his beard grow even longer to cover the scar. Corey Brewer scored 22, a slew of them on the break, looking like a wideout taking bombs from Love and Rubio. He was leaking out so much that coach Rick Adelman jokingly took issue with the final boxscore that showed Brewer with two rebounds.

“We don’t know where he got ’em,” Adelman said. “He was past halfcourt almost the whole game.”

It was that kind of night.

The Wolves (25-28) pulled into a virtual tie with Denver (24-27) for 10th place in the Western Conference. They held the Nuggets, who lost their fourth consecutive game, to 39.3 percent shooting and shot 52.3 percent themselves. J.J. Barea came off the bench to score 18. Chase Budinger had 12. Center Ronny Turiaf, again playing for the injured Nikola Pekovic, had 11 rebounds, his third consecutive game with 10 or more.

So there was fun to go around.

“Man, this was great,” Brewer said. “We needed this. We did a good job of playing hard all night. Usually we have times where we let up, let teams back in the game. Tonight we didn’t let them back in.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson was one of many Denver players out with injuries, and the Wolves took advantage. With Rubio hitting all four of his shots, the Wolves jumped out to a 17-3 lead.

Minnesota led by 11 after one quarter, by 20 at halftime, by 25 entering the fourth and by as many as 36 late in the game when Adelman emptied his bench.

“We’ve been having a tough stretch,” Rubio said. “We wanted to bounce back, get ready for the last part of the season. We still have a lot of work to do.”

And that was the sobering footnote on an otherwise upbeat night. The Wolves are still six games behind No. 8 Phoenix in the West, and there isn’t a lot of time left to close that gap. When the team reassembles for practice Tuesday, they will have only 29 games to make up a lot of ground. Maybe that’s why Adelman wasn’t quite as jovial as some of his players.

“We know what we have to do,” he said. “Of course this was a very important game to get, we didn’t want to go into the break losing five in a row. But now that’s over with. Now we’ll come back. We have Indiana [at home on Wednesday] and then a five-game road trip. We know where we stand.”

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  • Wolves Kevin Love drove to the basketball with Denver's J.J. Hickson defending during the first half at the Target Center in Minneapolis Wednesday, February 12, 2014. ] (KYNDELL HARKNESS/STAR TRIBUNE) kyndell.harkness@startribune.com

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