DENVER — Kenneth Faried was struggling and a little confused with his role two weeks ago. A heart-to-heart with coach Brian Shaw has turned things around.
The Minnesota Timberwolves discovered as much Friday night.
Faried had a career-high 25 rebounds to go with a season-high 26 points, and the Denver Nuggets rallied to beat the Timberwolves, 106-102.
Faried had his best game since opening night when he had 22 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Detroit, and it came just three days after he had 20 and 14 in a loss at Brooklyn.
The new-look Faried can be traced back to his talk with Shaw.
“It helped me 110 percent,” Faried said. “We had a conversation, we went back and forth, he had stuff he wanted to say, I had stuff I wanted to say but we came to an agreement. Now it’s eased my mind.”
He has struggled at times this season but had a breakout game against the struggling Timberwolves. Faried had 14 points and 14 rebounds in just 15 minutes in the first half to lead the Nuggets to a 53-47 lead at intermission.
“He had a good game. That’s one of the best games I’ve seen him play,” guard Ty Lawson said. “We needed it tonight, too. After having Christmas everybody was a little sluggish, he brought the energy for us.”
Faried was the difference in the game, something he did regularly last season and in the summer for Team USA.
“We didn’t call plays for him,” Shaw said. “He got those 26 points by going after offensive rebounds every single time.”
Forward Wilson Chandler had 21 points and Lawson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Denver.
The Timberwolves have lost seven straight and 13 of 14. They came close to breaking that streak behind 23 points from forward Thaddeus Young and 22 from rookie guard Andrew Wiggins.
“We just haven’t learned how to win down the stretch yet,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “That’s always a big thing.”
The Timberwolves trailed by three after the third but forward Robbie Hummel’s tip-in with 8:42 left gave Minnesota an 83-82 lead, its first since the second quarter.
The lead was five when Chandler’s running jumper sparked an 8-0 Denver run that gave the Nuggets a 94-91 lead with 3:30 left.
Young’s basket with 2:31 remaining made it a one-point game, and a free throw by center Gorgui Dieng tied it at 96 with 2:16 left.
Lawson hit a layup, and after Young split a pair of free throws, center Timofey Mozgov dunked with 1:10 left to put Denver up 102-99.
Dieng hit one of two free throws with 18.7 seconds left to make it 102-101.
Two free throws by guard Arron Afflalo made it a three-point game. Minnesota called timeout but forward Chase Budinger stepped out of bounds before he could get off a 3-point attempt.
Afflalo sank another free throw.
“We’re a young team and sometimes it happens like that at the end of the game,” Young said. “You just can’t find a shot or you can’t make a free throw, something like that.”
The Nuggets led by 10 midway through the third, but a dunk by Dieng cut the deficit to 77-74 in the final minute.
Chandler hit a runner in the lane at the quarter buzzer to give the Nuggets a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss a month after undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee. … Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said C Nikola Pekovic has begun running on a treadmill but has not begun basketball related workouts. Pekovic has been out since Nov. 15 with a sprained wrist but three weeks ago had a setback while running on his ankle. He will have MRIs on the ankle and foot when the team returns to Minnesota. … Nuggets F Darrell Arthur returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with a strain in his lower left leg. … Timberwolves G Ricky Rubio did some basketball drills Friday but is still out. Rubio, who has missed 23 games with a sprained left ankle, was able to run up and down the court and make cuts for the first time at the morning shootaround. Saunders is hopeful Rubio can participate in some contact drills by next week and possibly play limited minutes the following week.
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