Down by 15 at intermission after struggling to score 18 points in the second quarter, things were looking all too familiar for the Denver Nuggets. Then, however, in the span of one minute, things completely turned around.
After going 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half, Jameer Nelson and Danilo Gallinari combined to drain three consecutive long-range shots, part of a 7-of-9 performance from 3-point distance in the third quarter, as Denver came to life on offense and eventually posted a 111-108 overtime decision over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The win snapped a five-game home losing streak for the Nuggets and avenged a Minnesota win that ruined Denver’s home opener.
Denver scored 32 points in the third quarter, its biggest offensive explosion in a single period since scoring 35 in the second quarter of a loss to the Golden State Warriors on November 22, to pull within five at the end of the quarter. Part of that was thanks to Nelson, who played extended minutes after rookie Emmanuel Mudiay left the game at halftime with an ankle injury. Nelson played every minute of the third quarter, going 5-for-6 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, to score 14 points in the period.
“I thought Jameer’s contribution was huge,” said Denver head coach Michael Malone. “It was a great come-from-behind win and great to end that five-game losing streak at home.”
Despite Nelson’s heroic third quarter, the Nuggets needed a spark in the fourth quarter to overcome Minnesota’s lead, and they got that from Will Barton. Limited to just two points in the game’s first three periods, Denver’s super sub caught fire in the fourth, scoring nine points, including a reverse layup that gave the Nuggets a 97-96 edge with 1:37 to play.
“We were the ones tonight that made the third quarter exciting, getting up and down,” Barton said. “We jumped on them. Usually teams kind of ratchet it up on us in the third quarter. It was nice to flip the script. We wanted to get a win and guys dug down deep.
“You have to string together a bunch of stops if you want to come back. We did that and that’s what really got our energy going. Finally in the second half, we got some things to go our way.”
In overtime, Gallinari took over, logging the final nine of Denver’s 11 points in the extra frame. He was perfect from the field in overtime, connecting on all three of his shots, as well as hitting both of his free throw attempts as part of his game-high 23 points.
“I thought we needed a game like that as a team, to be able to win in clutch time like this,” Gallinari said. “We didn’t play very good in the first half, and we were able to be much better in the second half. To play a game like this and have our confidence in clutch time is great for everybody.”
Denver (9-14) finishes up its three-game homestand against the Houston Rockets on Monday night. The Nuggets have won both games against Houston this season, including a 107-98 victory in Denver on November 13.