DENVER (AP) -- A raucous crowd, plenty of pushing and shoving,
and even more jawing. The rematch between Denver and Minnesota sure
looked a whole lot like last year's playoff series.
One difference: The Nuggets won.
Earl Boykins hit a jumper with 6.8 seconds left in overtime and
Carmelo Anthony had 19 points and 14 rebounds to help the Denver
Nuggets win their home opener 94-92 over the Minnesota Timberwolves
on Thursday night.
"We played tonight like a team that wasn't afraid," said
Boykins, who finished with 14 points and six assists.
Denver had trouble shooting in its first game without Voshon
Lenard, who tore his Achilles' tendon in Tuesday night's season
opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets shot just 38
percent against a variety of Timberwolves' defenses and missed six
straight attempts in overtime before Boykins' winner from the wing.
But the Nuggets found a way to pull it out after the
disappointing loss to the Lakers, getting 18 points and 13 rebounds
from Kenyon Martin in his home debut with Denver and 19 points from
"It was a gutty win by our basketball team," Nuggets coach
Jeff Bzdelik said. "They kept hanging in there and fought through
Kevin Garnett had 25 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and five
blocked shots, but he couldn't come through on Minnesota's final
shot. Last year's NBA MVP was short on a turnaround jumper after
tying the game at 88 on a jump hook with 10.5 seconds left in
"I thought I had a pretty clean look at it," Garnett said.
"It felt good when it left my hand, but I just missed it."
Trenton Hassell scored 17 points and hassled Anthony most of the
night -- just as he did in last season's playoffs. Denver's
second-year star was just 5-for-25 and came up short on Denver's
final shot in regulation.
It wasn't the only similarity to the playoffs.
Minnesota beat Denver in that testy, five-game series, and
neither team seemed to forget the animosity, jawing at each other
from the start.
Garnett and Francisco Elson, two of the antagonists from last
season, picked up where they left off in the third quarter, yelling
at each other after Elson hit Garnett in the face on a hard foul.
It heated up even more late in the fourth, when Minnesota's Sam
Cassell was ejected for throwing the ball at Martin, who had shoved
Cassell for a hard foul on Boykins.
"This isn't a rivalry," said Cassell, who had six points on
3-of-14 shooting. "It would be a rivalry if they had beaten us
more, but they only beat us today and that's just one game so far.
We respect them and they respect us, but there isn't any bad
The fans also picked up where they left off last May, filling
the arena with cheers and signs well before the opening tip.
Blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd got the crowd worked up
with a rowdy rendition of the national anthem, and celebrities such
as John Elway, Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic and Denver
Broncos receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie helped provide a
It seemed to be just what Denver needed after the sluggish,
89-78 loss to Los Angeles.
Feeding off the festive atmosphere, the Nuggets worked hard off
cuts, went harder to the rim and were far more aggressive
defensively than they were against the Lakers. The result was
easier shots, with Denver hitting its first four and opening an
"The crowd inspired us," Bzdelik said.
But the good vibes didn't last.
The Nuggets missed 11 of their final 13 shots in the first
quarter and shot just 36 percent in the first half. Denver wasn't
much better defensively, allowing Minnesota plenty of open jumpers
and easy shots inside.
As for the Timberwolves, they played it just like last year's
playoff series: weathering Denver's early rush and sticking to
their game plan of working the ball through Garnett in the post.
The Nuggets did plenty of double-teaming against Garnett, who
had just six points at halftime, but that created open shots for
other players. Minnesota shot 10-of-16 in the first quarter and
only cooled slightly in the second, shooting 52 percent to take a
47-42 halftime lead.
"Denver didn't beat us tonight, we beat ourselves," Minnesota
coach Flip Saunders said. "We are an execution team, and we didn't
Denver has won eight straight regular-season games at home.
... Minnesota is 4-12 in road openers.
On the Net:
Denver Nuggets: http://www.nba.com/nuggets
Minnesota Timberwolves: http://www.nba.com/timberwolves
National Basketball Association: http://www.nba.com