DENVER – Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio has made a career out of assisting others, so when it came time for teammate Andrew Wiggins to make a little piece of history in Wednesday’s 112-99 victory at Denver, he willingly obliged.
With his team leading by eight points late in a contested game before a nine-day schedule break, Rubio deferred what ordinarily would have been his penalty free throw taken after Nuggets’ talented big man Nikola Jokic was called for a dead-ball foul.
Rubio agreed when Wiggins asked to step to the foul line with 90 seconds remaining instead. He made it after he already had missed two in the fourth quarter; it became his 40th and final point of the night.
“He let me have it,” Wiggins said. “Ricky, he’s a good vet.”
It made him only the second player in franchise history to score 40 points in consecutive games; Wiggins reached 41 in Tuesday’s home loss to Cleveland.
Wiggins’ scoring (17 points in the first quarter alone) and Karl-Anthony Towns’ rebounding (19 total) set the tone on an evening when the Wolves beat a Denver team that competed without five players.
The Nuggets didn’t let those injuries and illness stop them from making an NBA record-tying 24 threes in Monday’s thumping of mighty Golden State. Just two nights later, the Wolves limited them to 11 threes made (and 34 attempted) and held them to 39 second-half points while the Wolves’ offense committed only seven turnovers.
The Nuggets lost at home for just the second time in their past 10 games playing at a mile’s elevation.
“It’s all about wins and to get a win like that here, it’s a great win,” Towns said after his 19-rebound, 24-point night. “I’m glad we get to go into break with this kind of confidence.”
The Wolves are 11-9 in their past 20 games and Wednesday’s sends them into the All-Star break trailing Denver by 3½ games for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
Wolves reserve forward Shabazz Muhammad called the victory in the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season “a big statement game for us.”
“The eighth spot, we want that position,” said Wiggins, whose team with its 22nd victory still is only 13th in the West. “We want to do something special this year, so it kind of motivated us.”
Wiggins joins Love as the only two Wolves players to reach 40 points in consecutive games. He did so by following Tuesday’s 41-point night in a home loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland team that drafted him with 15-for-26 shooting from the field and by making eight of 11 free throws, including the last one, on Wednesday.
Love did it by scoring 43 and 40 in consecutive games in April of 2014.
“Good company,” Wiggins said.
His night also included a posterizing fourth-quarter dunk over Jokic that brought all of his teammates off the bench and ranks right up in his young career with dunks over Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.
“I don’t know, where do you guys rank?” Wiggins asked reporters. “I don’t think it’s over the Gobert one.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau simply said, “That’s two points, two points” when asked about the dunk. But then he smiled and almost gave a wink as he walked away from his postgame interview.
Wiggins hasn’t scored fewer than 20 points in a game since a Jan. 17 loss at San Antonio.
Not all that long after that, Wiggins started wearing a vibrant green pair of Adidas, so maybe it is the shoes.
“That’s what everybody is saying,” Wiggins said about a pair that Muhammad calls the Green Lanterns. “I’m going to keep with ’em.”