MINNEAPOLIS (AP) As Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica let a 3-pointer fly at the buzzer, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone was already preparing for overtime.
“After the last couple games, it’s kind of like here we go again,” Malone said. “To see it actually in and out was kind of nice for us to get a favorable bounce.”
Wilson Chandler scored eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Bjelica’s 3 rattled out to help the Nuggets outlast the Timberwolves in a 102-99 victory.
Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points and Jusuf Nurkic added 18 as Denver erased a 15-point deficit in the first half. The Nuggets outscored Minnesota 45-23 off the bench and shot 48 percent for their second win of the season.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 32 points and 14 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 25 for the Timberwolves, who gave away a lead of at least 15 points for the third time in four games this season. Bjelica scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s like we have half of the puzzle done and we don’t finish the puzzle,” Towns said.
Denver led by 13 with eight minutes to play, but Bjelica’s scoring flurry helped the Wolves pull within 102-99 with 90 seconds to go.
Emmanuel Mudiay responded with a three-point play and the Wolves missed three 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the final 30 seconds to help the Nuggets hold on. Jameer Nelson had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and Mudiay finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
“It was a sloppy game,” said Mudiay, who had six of Denver’s 22 turnovers. “It was a bad game for us personally but we picked it up and we did what we had to do.”
Minnesota led by 17 in the season opener against Memphis and 18 at Sacramento, but lost both games.
Denver outscored Minnesota 33-14 in the third quarter to surge to a 13-point lead, with Nurkic bulling his way to the paint and Gallinari knocking down 3s from the perimeter.
But the Nuggets have been just as shaky with the lead in this young season, including letting an eight-point lead slip away against Portland in the final 90 seconds before losing in overtime.
“The third quarter is haunting us right now,” Wiggins said.
Nuggets: G Will Barton missed the game with a sprained left ankle and backup G Gary Harris was out with a strained right groin. … Rookie Jamal Murray started for Barton. … F Darrell Arthur made his season debut after sitting out the first three games and the preseason while recovering from surgery on his left knee. He had two points in nine minutes. … Denver has won five straight games at Target Center and is 19-6 here since 2004-05.
Timberwolves: Minnesota scored a season-high 37 in the first quarter. For the season, the Wolves are averaging 33.0 points on 60 percent shooting in the first 12 minutes. … Gorgui Dieng had a rough night with two points in 28 minutes and picking up a Flagrant-1 when he hit Nurkic in the throat in the third quarter.
A mini-drama broke out between the Nuggets and Timberwolves this summer. Assistant coach Ed Pinckney was on Michael Malone’s staff in Denver last season, but has a long history of working with Tom Thibodeau, who took over in Minnesota. At one point the Nuggets offered Pinckney a bump in pay to stay on, but after initially agreeing, Pinckney ultimately decided he wanted to leave for Minnesota.
Pinckney’s change of heart didn’t sit well with the Nuggets, who dug their heels in. The two teams went back and forth for a month. The NBA ultimately got involved and Pinckney did not officially join the Wolves until after training camp started, getting a sizable raise from what he was making in Denver.
Nuggets: Visit Detroit on Saturday.
Timberwolves: Visit Oklahoma City on Saturday.