for this game

Nuggets rally late to upend Timberwolves

Nov 17, 2008 - 5:24 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups recovered from a poor shooting night to rally the Denver Nuggets to a 90-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

The veteran point guard collected 26 points and five assists for the Nuggets, who finished the game on a 21-6 run to win their fifth game in six chances since acquiring Billups from the Detroit Pistons earlier this month.

"We need to keep our defense locked in so we can win games like this," Billups said.

The Timberwolves - who have now dropped eight straight - pulled ahead in the third quarter thanks to strong showings from Al Jefferson and Randy Foye.

"I hate 6 p.m. games," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "It seems like we don't get started until 7:30 or 8 p.m."

Jefferson scored six points in a 16-5 run to start the second half as Minnesota built a 56-49 advantage.

But the Timberwolves went cold midway through the final frame and the Nuggets capitalized.

"The turning point of this game was the last two minutes of the third quarter," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "We were up nine (points) and led by only two at the quarter. We've just got to push through it."

J.R. Smith sparked a run with a 3-pointer and added another jumper from the arc to pull Denver to within two at 80-78. Carmelo Anthony's slam dunk gave the Nuggets the lead for good.

"The game was going so many ways, and to get the pass and finish maybe gave us a spark," Anthony said.

The Timberwolves had their chances, but connected on just two field goals over the last 4:47 of play.

Billups added a 3-pointer - his fourth of the night - to push the lead to 84-80 and officially seize momentum from Minnesota. Anthony, Billups and Kenyon Martin added two foul shots apiece over the final minute to clinch it as the Nuggets moved into a first-place tie with the Utah Jazz in the Northwest Division.

Anthony finished with 14 points and 12 boards, but shot just 4-of-17 from the field. In fact, the Nuggets as a whole were ice-cold for most of the game. The team shot just 34 percent (28-of-83) on the night, but were able to stay in it thanks to 13 offensive boards - including Anthony's five.

"When you struggle from the field, you have to find other ways to win," Billups said.

Though the Nuggets have been winning since Billups' arrival, the former Finals MVP is still trying to find his shot. In six games with the Nuggets, he is shooting just 29 percent (28-of-90), including Sunday's 7-for-23 showing. But Denver's defense has held four of its last six opponents under the 100-point mark.

The Timberwolves were only the latest victim of the Nuggets' improved defensive pressure as their dismal start to the season continued. Despite dropping eight games in a row, all but one of their losses have been by single digits.

"I give Minnesota credit," Karl said. "Their team is better than last year, I know that."

Jefferson led them on Sunday with 20 points and 14 boards. Foye added 18, six assists and five boards off the bench.