Minnesota led for much of the first three quarters, including 63-55 with under eight minutes left in the third. But the Nuggets responded with a 15-0 run bridging the third and fourth to take control.
Carmelo Anthony added 19 points, but it was the contributions of his supporting cast that proved to be the most important for the short-handed Nuggets.
While Minnesota closed the gap a little in the fourth quarter, a thunderous 360 alley-oop dunk by Smith from Billups with 4:28 to play put an exclamation point on the game and helped Denver avoid a third straight road loss. Denver has won 11 of the last 12 against Minnesota and the Wolves have now dropped seven straight games and seven in a row at home.
“This offense has been easy to run,” Love said Wednesday after the Timberwolves’ seventh consecutive loss, “but hard to figure out.”
Lots of things were hard for Love to figure out during Denver’s 110-102 victory in Target Center — like the brief stretch where coach Kurt Rambis assigned him to guard Carmelo Anthony, the league’s third-leading scorer. “I said, ‘Are you sure?'” Love said.
He was, and while the matchup, forced by Denver’s decision to play a three-guard lineup, didn’t last long, it coincided with the Nuggets’ decisive burst of energy.
Darko Milicic replaced Ryan Hollins in the starting lineup when the league handed down a two-game suspension on the big man for the altercations against Dallas on Monday night. In 26 minutes, Milicic attacked the glass with 12 boards and affected countless close looks from the Nuggets. He could not find the range on his jump hook; however, the former No. 2 overall pick added a much-needed defensive presence for the shorthanded Wolves.
Corey Brewer extended his franchise-record streak to 29 consecutive games with at least one three-pointer and scored a team-high 21 points in the defeat. In a backup role, Wayne Ellington relieved Brewer off the bench after missing three consecutive games with an ankle injury. The rookie tallied six points and five boards as Minnesota fell to 14-51 on the season.