DENVER – The Timberwolves kept it short and simple Friday when explaining a 117-113 loss at Denver that leaves them 6-4 after the season’s first 10 games.
“We were bad tonight,” forward Corey Brewer said after his return to the Pepsi Center, where he played the past two seasons.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman was slightly more specific.
“We didn’t defend,” he said.
Brewer won 57 games with a Nuggets team that traditionally plays well a mile high at home. Before the season began, Brewer challenged his teammates to win seven of their first 10 games and they came up one victory shy.
The Wolves trailed by 14 points in the second quarter and by 13 points in the final four minutes but got within a basket in the final 19 seconds.
“Six and four is one behind,” Brewer said. “That means the next 10 have to be good.”
This time, the Nuggets were the team that scored big in the first quarter, borrowing the Wolves’ first-quarter starts this season to score 35 points before the visitors answered with a 34-21 second quarter that made it a game again.
Wolves veteran Kevin Martin scored 27 points in his first game back after missing Wednesday’s game because he was ill. That was one point shy of Kevin Love’s 28-point, 10-rebound night.
Adelman had no complaints about an offense that surpassed its 108.2 point scoring average — second best in the NBA — but he sure did about his team’s defense against a Nuggets team that, with Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Timothy Mozgov and Darrell Arthur was more physical than the Wolves almost all night.
“Second quarter is the only time we did a decent job,” Adelman said. “We didn’t defend. We gave them so many easy baskets. They hurt us on the boards, got to the rim. You’re not going to win giving up easy baskets like that.”
Adelman again played eight players, relying upon J.J. Barea (21 points in 25 minutes) and Dante Cunningham (26 minutes) heavily off the bench while Nuggets coach Brian Shaw countered with 11 players. Forward Derrick Williams and guard Alexey Shved didn’t play at all.
Afterward, starting center Nikola Pekovic had his right foot wrapped after playing more than 34 minutes. No starter played more than Brewer’s 36 minutes, 14 seconds.
Trailing 112-103 with 2:18 left, the Wolves went on 10-3 run built upon a three-pointer each from Brewer and Love. Love’s three made it 115-113 with 18.9 seconds left.
“Everything was off tonight, and yet we were right there in the game,” Love said. “There’s a few games we felt could have gone our way. We’re 6-4. If we can win 60 percent or more of our games — over .500 right out of the gate — we’ll feel good about that. It’s still mid-November. We’re going to get a lot better.”
The Wolves had a chance to get the ball with a chance to tie with a three-pointer when Chandler missed the second of two free throws with 15 seconds, but Andre Miller came flying free down the lane from near the three-point line and snatched an offensive rebound that preserved the victory.
Adelman argued Miller was in the lane far too early.
“It makes no sense why the league allows that to happen,” he said. “It’s the only shot in basketball you can’t box out. You can’t box him out. He’s at the three-point line. They call a foul if you try to box ’em out. I just have never understood for 10 years why they don’t just say nobody can go in there until the ball hits the rim. Then the defensive team has a chance to get it. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with.”