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Mon, 26 Nov 2012 10:08 PM EST

The Target Center crowd stood and watched in denial as Kevin Love was introduced in the starting lineup, maybe a week in advance of schedule from a damaged right hand that had kept him out for the first 9 games of the season.

The only problem was his Timberwolves squad spent the rest of the night standing and watching Love also.

Andre Iguodala had 18 points and 9 rebounds to ruin Love’s surprise season debut in the Nuggets’ 101-94 victory.

Love had 34 points and 14 rebounds, helping the Wolves take a 17-point lead in the 1st half. But he didn’t get a whole of help in his 1st game in nearly 5 weeks. Nikola Pekovic had 10 points and 7 rebounds, and J.J. Barea was the only other Wolves player in double figures with 12 points.

”You’ve got to be able to go to other players instead of just him,” Coach Rick Adelman expounded.

Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who withstood a furious start by a Minnesota Timberwolves team buoyed by the return of their All-Star power forward.

Ty Lawson had 18 points and 9 helps, and Kenneth Faried had 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who beat 20 turnovers. After a sluggish start to the season, the Denver Nuggets (6-6) have picked up 2 straight quality road wins against Grizzlies and Minnesota.

”Kevin Love’s an All-Star player, but it’s a 48-minute game and thank God we hung around,” Nuggets coach George Karl asserted. ”The balance at both ends of the court was probably the best we’ve played all year.”

Adelman even evaded a query about Love’s progress about 75 minutes before the game, but word leaked out a few minutes later that Love was back in the starting lineup.

”I didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Love said. ”I told my colleagues, and they did not really believe me. When they saw a jersey in my locker, they believed it was true.”

Love scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the 1st quarter, an incredibly fluid performance considering his long layoff. Barea and Pekovic returned from injuries too, and the Timberwolves led by 17 points in the 1st half, but Iguodala helped Nuggets come roaring back in the 3rd quarter. Football scores

Still, Love stated that he didn’t feel like his normal self over almost 35 minutes. He missed 6 free throws and was just 2 for 9 from 3-point range and was continually flexing his hand to work out some of the residual pain.

”I have not even practiced, so I just kind of threw myself into the game hoping something good was going to happen,” Love announced. ”I missed some free throws, missed some 3s that I don’t usually miss. Lots of those could have saved us the game.”

Iguodala hit 3 three -pointers and then unleashing a spin move in transition and a dunk over 2 Timberwolves to tie the game at 67. Lawson added another from long range and Faried threw down a dunk that gave the Nuggets a 92-87 lead with 2:41 to play, and Denver was in a position to hold on

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