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Afflalo scores 34 in Nuggets’ win

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MINNEAPOLIS — Some extra time in the film room is starting to pay off for Denver Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo. On Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Afflalo put together his own personal highlight tape.

Afflalo scored a season-high 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, leading the Nuggets to a 110-101 win at Target Center in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score might indicate.

Afflalo got it going early, leading all scorers with 13 points after one quarter. He had 20 points at the break, as the Nuggets led by as many as 24 in the second quarter. By the end of three Afflalo had already equaled his previous season best of 31 points.

“It’s good, especially when it comes with a win,” Afflalo said. “Obviously, we’re trying to get back on the right page, so anytime we can get production … I think it’s a positive.”

Afflalo has scored in double figures four straight games and has 19 or more points in three straight. He had 23 points in a 114-85 win last time out against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

“I’ve just been trying to watch more film, and every time I come into a new situation, I have to learn a little bit about myself and where I can be effective,” Afflalo said. “I think I’m starting to notice it over the past three games of how to be efficient and effective.”

Minnesota opened the game on a 7-0 run and led 9-2 when Denver went on its first of many runs. Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov was in early foul trouble, but his replacement, Jusuf Nurkic, spurred an 18-4 run with eight first-quarter points to put Denver ahead for good.

Afflalo hit a three-pointer to cap a separate 12-0 run later in the quarter as Denver led by 14 points after one quarter.

“Offensively, we shared the ball, we just executed,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Defensively, we were active, we were rebounding. We got off to a rough start, but then we got it together.”

“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Wolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell, filling in for a sick Flip Saunders. “Arron Afflalo hadn’t shot the ball like that all year. I thought, for the most part, we were contesting them. NBA players, when they get it going like that are hard to stop.”

After trailing 62-41 at the half, the Wolves got as close as 12 points late in the third quarter, led by center Gorgui Dieng, who tied a career high with 22 points and added 12 rebounds.

But Afflalo made back-to-back jumpers and forward J.J. Hickson nailed a 10-foot jumper in the final minute, pushing the Nuggets’ lead back to 18 points at the end of three.

As a team, Denver shot 57 percent through three quarters and finished the night shooting 54.8 percent from the floor.

“The first half, I think, was probably the best half of basketball we’ve played offensively and defensively combined,” Shaw said.

Forward Thaddeus Young made two free throws with just over four minutes remaining in the final quarter to get Minnesota back to within 10 points, but a rebound and put-back slam by Hickson ended any hope of a late comeback.

Denver’s bench outscored Minnesota’s by a 47-10 margin.

“It makes it hard for those guys coming off the bench because our bench guys aren’t really scorers,” Mitchell said. “They’re young and they haven’t quite found the niche they’re going to have in the NBA in terms of what kind of player they are going to be.”

Five Nuggets finished in double figures, including forward Kenneth Faried, who followed up his 25-point, 25-rebound performance against Minnesota last week with 15 points and seven rebounds on Monday. Hickson had 16 points and 11 boards.

All five Wolves starters scored in double figures, led by Dieng and forward Shabazz Muhammad, who finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

“I thought we came out with a sense of urgency tonight,” Muhammad said. “I just think we kind of relaxed at the end of the first quarter and they kind of jumped on us. We didn’t know how to respond.”

NOTES: Nuggets F Kenneth Faried became the first player in NBA history to record at least 25 points and 25 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes played last week against Minnesota. He also became the first Nugget to ever have a 25-25 game. … Timberwolves F Robbie Hummel did not play due to illness. … Timberwolves F Chase Budinger also did not play due to illness.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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