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Pekovic helps Timberwolves hold off Nuggets

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Associated Press
12/12/2012 10:53:03 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Love heard a couple of snide remarks from the normally adoring Minnesota crowd, and it had nothing to do with his 3-for-17 shooting night against Denver.

Some disparaging comments about the Timberwolves organization and his contract appeared to get a few fans a little riled up, and Nikola Pekovic and JJ Barea stepped in to deliver a much-needed win against the road-weary Nuggets.

Pekovic had 22 points and 11 rebounds and the Timberwolves used a big advantage at the free throw line to overcome Love's shooting struggles in a 108-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Barea had 17 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals, while Love finished with eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds on a day he had to explain to Minnesota's owner some critical comments he made about the franchise.

"I heard a few things from the fans that weren't too pleasant," Love said.

The Timberwolves shot under 40 per cent for much of the game, but made 30 of 37 from the free throw line. The Nuggets were just 14 of 24 at the line.

Kenneth Faried had 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.

Andrei Kirilenko added 18 points and four steals and Dante Cunningham scored 12 for Minnesota.

"If we can win and I can have a game like that, I'm not going to be mad," Love said. "I was very happy."

The Wolves led by 11 with less than two minutes to play, but the Nuggets pulled within three and had the ball with 34 seconds to play. Ty Lawson's 3-pointer at the buzzer was short, and the Wolves breathed a sigh of relief.

Lawson had 17 points and 11 assists, and Danilo Gallinari scored 24 for Denver.

"We really had that no-quit attitude, especially with what Kevin Love put out in the media, challenging his teammates," Faried said.

That's not entirely accurate. Love did question the decisions made by team president David Kahn in a Yahoo! Sports story, but spent the morning meeting with reporters to say that he was happy with the direction of the team.

He then played like a guy with other things on his mind. He missed his first six shots and couldn't contain Faried's boundless energy on the defensive end. But Love said it had nothing to do with the events of the day.

"That's not why I shot poorly," Love said. "They were good looks that I just missed."

Faried has gone through peaks and valleys this season and entered the night with 22 points total in his previous four games. The Manimal got off to a ferocious start on Wednesday night, scoring 14 points and grabbing five boards in the first quarter alone. He gobbled up rebounds then blew the doors off the Minnesota big men in transition for easy buckets.

That it was coming on the second night of a back-to-back against a Wolves team that had the previous four days off was even more impressive. Then again, the Nuggets have been hardened by a grueling schedule to open this season. They've played 17 of their first 23 games on the road and were finishing up a five-game road trip.

"We lost. Any time we lose, it's a terrible game," Faried said. "You can't put stats on that or what you did well because it's a team effort. We kept pushing and we kept fighting, and that's what I admire."

The last time these two teams met, the Timberwolves sprang quite a surprise on coach George Karl and the Nuggets. Love made his season debut on that night, which came more than a week before anyone expected. His activation wasn't known until about an hour before game time, and Karl wondered if the Wolves might throw Ricky Rubio out there on Wednesday night for his first game of the season.

Karl said he received a text earlier Wednesday that "guaranteed" Rubio would not be playing that night. "That made me even more suspicious," he said. Rubio did not play. He's expected to play Saturday night against Dallas.

The Nuggets turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 27 points for the Timberwolves. Andre Iguodala had five of those errors and scored just two points on 1-for-9 shooting.

"We just didn't play an intelligent game," Karl said. "To overcome those three areas of fundamentals and to have a shot to tie is pretty impressive."

NOTES: Gallinari entered the night shooting 28 per cent from 3-point range. He was 4 for 5 on Wednesday night. ... Timberwolves G/F Josh Howard missed the game because of an illness. ... Wolves SG Malcolm Lee left the game just before halftime with a hyperextended right knee and did not return.

Nikola Pekovic (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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