DENVER (AP) - Arron Afflalo may be the closest thing the banged-up Denver Nuggets have to a late-game closer.
So when he clanged his first game-winning chance off the back of the rim at the end of regulation, he berated himself all the way to the bench, just hoping for another shot.
And when that second opportunity arrived, Afflalo didn't miss.
Afflalo hit a tiebreaking floater in the lane with 33.7 seconds remaining in overtime and reserve Al Harrington scored a season-high 31 points as the Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 103-101 Monday night.
This time, Afflalo took it closer to the rim, spinning past defender Luke Ridnour and swishing his shot to put Denver ahead for good. From there, the Nuggets closed the game out at the line and snapped a three-game skid.
A big sigh of relief - for Afflalo and the Nuggets.
``I was so (mad) that I missed the first one,' said Afflalo, who finished with 20 points. ``My opportunities for those situations have been rare this season. I knew I could get my shot off on Ridnour, without him really thinking he could block my shot.
``It's good to win a close one.'
The Nuggets may have caught a little break, too.
Up by three points with 3.9 seconds remaining in overtime, little-used point guard Julyan Stone, who was seeing his first significant action following the ejection of Andre Miller and an injury to Ty Lawson, had his in-bounds pass stolen by Martell Webster.
His heart sank. There went perhaps the lead and possibly even the game.
Only, Webster didn't pull up for a 3-pointer.
Instead, he coasted in for the dunk.
``When I saw him pass the 3-point line, I just said, `Thank you,'' Stone said. ``That's all I was thinking - go lay it up.'
The Nuggets threw the ball in and Corey Brewer was fouled, hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 0.5 seconds left and sealing the win.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was befuddled at Webster's decision.
``Maybe emotions got the best of him,' he said.
Webster's thought process was simple: He thought he could get fouled on his way to the hoop.
``If I had to do it over again, yeah, I'd probably pull up for a jump shot,' Webster said. ``But what was going through my mind was go to the rim and possibly get fouled. The contingency to that shot was get a bucket, get a foul, they miss free throws and we get another shot. It didn't work out that way.'
Kevin Love had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which snapped its three-game winning streak.
Harrington came up big all night, tying the score at 93 on a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:39 remaining in regulation.
Like Afflalo, he craves the ball at crunch time.
``Me and Arron needed to be more aggressive, earn our pay tonight,' Harrington said. ``Usually, we're laid back and let the game come to us. We forced the issue.'
The Nuggets lost their cool and control of the game late in the third quarter.
Leading 76-69, Miller became irate over an offensive foul and kept barking at the officials, eventually leading to his ejection. The Timberwolves took advantage, using an 11-2 run to take the lead.
``There was no question it put extra pressure on our team, but we passed the test,' coach George Karl said.
With flying colors.
The banged-up Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari (left ankle), Nene (left calf strain) and Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain). They also lost Lawson to a sprained left ankle in the second quarter. His status is day-to-day.
Karl is hoping to keep the team afloat and not lose ground in the playoff race until he gets all his pieces back. Nene might return later this week and Gallinari could be back on the court soon after the All-Star break.
The possible addition of former Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler might just help. He watched the game Monday night from a suite with team executive Masai Ujiri sitting by his side.
Chandler's in town as he looks at potential landing places for when his time in China is finished. He signed with Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association during the lockout and is ineligible to return until his team signs off and FIBA, basketball's governing body, gives him clearance.
Watching his former team play made him all the more anxious to be back in an NBA uniform.
``Hopefully we get something done,' said Chandler, who sat at Miller's locker after the game as he chatted with teammates. ``Watching (the NBA) on TV and coming to the game today, it makes you miss it.'
The Timberwolves weren't at full strength, either, as center Darko Milicic didn't make the trip due to a stomach ailment. Milicic just recently returned to the lineup after missing a few games with a sprained right ankle.
They also lost another center when Nikola Pekovic left with a sprained right ankle. He had seven points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.
NOTES: Timberwolves G Ricky Rubio and Lawson were both picked by the Timberwolves in the 2009 draft. Rubio was taken fifth overall and Lawson at 18th, before being dealt to Denver. ... Miller had 12 assists before his ejection. ... Rookie F Kenneth Faried had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
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