MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chauncey Billups scored 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three huge 3-pointers to keep the Minnesota Timberwolves at bay and lift the short-handed Denver Nuggets to a 119-113 victory on Wednesday night.
Michael Beasley scored 33 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.
The Nuggets were playing without star Carmelo Anthony for the fifth straight game and were missing starters Kenyon Martin, Nene and top reserve Al Harrington with injuries.
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.
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.
Lawson’s speed in transition also was huge in the fourth quarter, fueling Denver’s fast breaks during a 12-0 run that gave them 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.
The Nuggets had everything going against them on Wednesday night. They were playing on the second night of back-to-back and missing Anthony, 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, who has missed five games after the death of his sister. 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.
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.
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 as the Wolves faded.
Notes: Anthony is expected to rejoin Denver on Thursday. … Nuggets coach George 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.
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