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After the Timberwolves blew a 19-point halftime lead in Atlanta on Monday, they wanted a do-over.

On Wednesday against Denver, the Wolves also carried a 19-point lead into the locker room, and it would be natural for even the most optimistic fans to have a voice in their heads echoing, "How is this going to go wrong?"

For a night, it didn't, and the Wolves handed the defending champion Denver Nuggets their first loss of the season with a 110-89 victory.

There was a key difference Wednesday that wasn't present Monday. When things got hairy, as they did for a few moments in the third quarter, the Wolves ran their offense through Mike Conley, who was feeling much better after a bout of food poisoning in Atlanta.

Even as Denver started making a run, the Nuggets never got closer than 14 points in the third quarter. Conley, or "Bite Bite" as Anthony Edwards refers to him, scored 10 of his 17 points then.

"He look like he's ready to bite something," Edwards said when asked why he calls Conley that. "Bite Bite came through big tonight."

Whatever works. Conley then passed the playmaking baton later in the quarter to Kyle Anderson (nine points) as he hit a couple of buckets and got the Wolves organized into good offense to prevent a late Nuggets run. Their veteran steadiness made a world of difference compared with Monday, when the Wolves lost their entire lead by the end of the third as Edwards and Towns forced it on themselves to rescue the offense. For a team with questions about its maturity, Wednesday's win was needed.

"The maturity comes when you stack performances like this on top of each other," coach Chris Finch said. "So that remains to be seen. But this was a great focused effort."

The Wolves also helped their cause with a much more stringent game on the defensive end. They looked more like the defense that took the floor in their first two games of the season as they held their third opponent in four games under 100 points.

Denver missed its first eight shots and Jaden McDaniels had a big hand in Jamal Murray (14 points) beginning the game 0-for-9. Karl-Anthony Towns (21 points) did a commendable job guarding Nikola Jokic (25 points on 11-for-23).

Mike Conley chats with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the third quarter. “Bite Bite came through big tonight,” Anthony Edwards said of Conley.
Mike Conley chats with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the third quarter. “Bite Bite came through big tonight,” Anthony Edwards said of Conley.

David Berding, Tribune News Service

"I was happy I was able to make things difficult for him," Towns said. "You're never fully going to stop a player of that caliber. But you make it very tough on him, and that's what I wanted to do."

That allowed Rudy Gobert to roam the paint and protect the rim. The Wolves also limited Jokic to three assists and cut down his ability to hurt them that way.

"I've been a part of those [game] plans where you say let [Jokic] score, or let him be a facilitator and they both don't work," Conley said. "It's really just compete and play hard. Try to make it a tough night on them. Everybody who was out there did a great job."

Denver shot just 40% for the game and coach Michael Malone sent the reserves out to play the final 6 minutes, 21 seconds. Towns and Edwards (24 points) helped the Wolves build a 22-point lead but took a back seat offensively in the third to let Conley run the show.

This could be a blueprint for the Wolves to build on in moments games start to slip. Conley said Monday he would've taken the reins of the offense more had he been feeling better. He said he felt like he was back to normal Monday, and he looked like it. He also added six assists.

"The last game I didn't have it physically to do that and tonight I felt way better," Conley said. "Felt like I could just go and be myself. I just tried to be aggressive when we needed it. Felt good about it and the team is pushing me to do it."