Butler keys Timberwolves’ win over Nuggets
DENVER — The Denver Nuggets kept Jimmy Butler in check for 43 minutes, but they couldn’t stop him at the end.
Butler scored 25 points, including 11 in the final 4:41, and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied to beat Denver 112-104 on Wednesday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns also scored 25 and grabbed 10 rebounds, Jamal Crawford had 20 points and seven assists, and Jeff Teague contributed 16 points and eight assists for Minnesota (19-13).
The Timberwolves overcame a 14-point deficit to win their second straight against a Northwest Division opponent.
“It means a lot,” Butler said. “Divisional game on the road, it’s big.”
Denver’s Nikola Jokic returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the previous two games. He finished with 22 points but also committed a career-high 10 turnovers, one more than the entire Minnesota team.
His last giveaway led to a 3-pointer by Crawford that put the Timberwolves up 102-95.
“I’ve had a couple of nights like this,” Jokic said. “Not 10, maybe six or seven. I need to take care of it. It’s a big number, 10, but I was just trying to get my guys open.”
The Nuggets committed 22 turnovers on the night.
“The turnovers have been a recurring nightmare all season,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.
Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 30 points, and Mason Plumlee had 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Denver’s leading scorer, Gary Harris, was out because of a right elbow contusion after taking a hard fall in Oklahoma City on Monday night. The Nuggets (16-15) could have used Harris to bottle up Butler, who helped Minnesota end Denver’s eight-game home winning streak.
“Sometimes wins are not going to be the prettiest ones, but as long as there’s a win at the end of the day, it’s always fun,” Towns said.
The Nuggets led by 80-66 late in the third quarter, but Minnesota went on a 19-4 run into the start of the fourth to take an 85-84 lead.
Murray hit a desperation 3-pointer to put the Nuggets up by four, but they couldn’t stop Towns. He hit a 3-pointer, a hook shot, two layups and a dunk while scoring Minnesota’s first 11 points in the fourth.
“It was a team effort. My teammates were amazing all night tonight,” Towns said. “All this happened because of them. They did a great job of picking up the pace, and I was just trying to follow suit.”
After Denver went up 93-91, Crawford and Butler hit 3-pointers to spark an 11-2 run that gave Minnesota a seven-point edge.
The Nuggets cut it to 102-100, but Butler hit four free throws, a 21-foot jumper and a layup to help close it out.
“If I’m open and it’s my shot, I’m going to shoot it. If I’m not, I’m going to pass it,” Butler said. “I have just as much faith in my teammates as I do in myself, and that’s just part of the game. You take what the game gives you.”
Minnesota shot 55.5 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 47.8 in the first three quarters.
“We didn’t make them work on offense, gave them a lot of uncontested looks at the rim,” Plumlee said. “Jamal (Murray) made some amazing shots, but you can’t count on that for a whole quarter.”
Denver led by 11 in the first quarter, but the Timberwolves rallied to take the lead in the second quarter. Will Barton’s layup with 1.3 seconds left gave the Nuggets a 52-50 halftime lead.
NOTES: Denver Broncos LB Von Miller, the Super Bowl 50 MVP, was sitting courtside. ... Nuggets G Emmanuel Mudiay (sprained right ankle) was inactive for the second consecutive game. ... Minnesota F Nemanja Bjelica went through a workout on the court before the game. Bjelica has missed 14 games because of a sprained left foot. He last played Nov. 22. ... The Nuggets transferred G Monte Morris from Rio Grande of the G League to their roster. Morris, who is from Michigan, was with the Nuggets when they played in Detroit last week. He didn’t play Wednesday.