MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - No Carmelo. No Nene. No Kenyon Martin or Al Harrington.
Chauncey Billups was just about all the Denver Nuggets had when they walked into Target Center on Wednesday night. In the end, that's just about all they needed against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Billups scored 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three huge 3-pointers to keep the Timberwolves at bay and lift the short-handed Nuggets to a 119-113 victory on Wednesday night.
``Relatively speaking, this is one of our best wins of the year, playing so short-handed, coming in on a back-to-back, getting in late,' said Billups, who made all six of his 3s. ``It was just a really good win. A really good win.'
The Nuggets had everything going against them when the game started. They were playing on the second night of back-to-back and missing Anthony for the fifth game in a row after the death of his sister, Nene (back, hamstring), Harrington (thumb) and Martin (knee).
They had also lost nine of their previous 11 on the road and were looking a bit lost without Anthony. Denver lost three in a row before routing Portland at home on Tuesday night, but Martin and Nene both were injured in the win and unable to go on Wednesday.
``It was one of our better wins of the year,' coach George Karl said. ``Chauncey was fantastic, but everybody had their moments. I think our big guys off the bench kind of pieced it together. No one had a great game, but they had great moments.'
Michael Beasley scored 33 points and Kevin Love had 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who missed a chance for their first three-game winning streak since February of last season.
Chris Andersen stepped in with 11 points and seven rebounds and Ty Lawson had 19 points, five assists and five rebounds off the bench to help the Nuggets to their second straight win. Despite missing their entire starting front court, the Nuggets outscored Minnesota 46-38 in the paint.
The Timberwolves turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 22 Denver points and had no answer for ``Mr. Big Shot' in the fourth quarter. Minnesota twice pulled within one point in the final four minutes, only to see Billups answer with 3-pointers to quiet the crowd.
``This is one we felt like we let slip away against a team we should have beat,' Love said.
Lawson's speed in transition also was huge in the fourth quarter, fueling Denver's fast breaks during a 12-0 run that gave it a 95-88 lead with 8 minutes to play.
The Wolves clawed their way back to tie it at 105 with 3:15 to play, but Billups drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing and the offensively challenged Andersen scored five points in the final two minutes to help the Nuggets close it out.
Luke Ridnour had 20 points and eight assists and Martell Webster scored 17 for the Timberwolves.
Billups did his best to keep Denver in the game early, hitting four of his first five shots and scoring 14 points in the first half.
Playing in just his third game this season, Renaldo Balkman gave the Nuggets a huge lift with his energy off the bench. He scored 10 points in 19 minutes, throwing down four big dunks to energize a tired team.
Arron Afflalo scored 12 of his 17 points in the third quarter, hitting two 3-pointers during a 14-0 run that gave the Nuggets the feeling that they could pull this one out.
``It's good team defense that we lack,' coach Kurt Rambis said. ``Guys just have to be engaged all the time.'
After putting up 43 points and 17 rebounds in a loss at Denver on Dec. 18, Love took advantage of the depleted Nuggets frontcourt from the start. He had 20 points and eight boards by halftime. But he scored just six points in the second half and the Wolves allowed 37 points in the fourth quarter in another disastrous defensive performance.
``Those are the mistakes that young players continue to make on a monumental level that are very, very difficult to overcome,' Rambis said.
Notes: Anthony is expected to rejoin Denver on Thursday. ... Karl said before the game that the team inquired about trading for Love this summer. ... Wolves C Darko Milicic bruised his left hip in the second quarter and returned briefly in the third before sitting for the rest of the game.
The Associated Press News Service
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