Jokic’s big night helps Nuggets tie series vs. T-Wolves


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Denver Nuggets were far from done after dropping the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals at home in humbling fashion.

Nikola Jokic scored 16 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and Aaron Gordon had 27 points on 11-for-12 shooting to propel the Nuggets to a series-tying 115-107 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday night in Game 4 .

“It’s just like a laser-sharp focus,” Gordon said, “and a surgical execution.”

 

Jamal Murray had 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter for the derfending champion Nuggets in a momentum carryover from his buzzer-beating swish from behind half court, and the Wolves only had the deficit below double digits in the second half for a total of 3:19.

Anthony Edwards scored 44 points in another spectacular performance for Minnesota that set the franchise postseason record, shooting 16 for 25. But despite a 42-31 rebounding edge, the Wolves were beaten at their own game for the second straight time at home.

“Game 2 definitely woke us up,” Murray said. “We realized we can’t hold ourselves back.”

The series goes back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday night.

“This is a series. We won two games, but we didn’t think it was going to be easy,” Edwards said.

Mike Conley had 15 points, Karl-Anthony Towns went just 5 for 18 from the field for 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Rudy Gobert came alive late to score 11 points and grab 14 rebounds. Still, the Wolves were on their heels at home for a second straight game.

The Nuggets scored eight straight points in 20 seconds to close the first half, highlighted by Murray’s improbable heave.

Gordon didn’t miss until there was 3:39 to go. Most importantly, he took the lead in hounding Towns and even took some turns trying to slow Edwards.

“The shot-making, the play-making, the physicality, the defense on two All-Stars, so much is being asked of him right now,” coach Mike Malone said. “What you love about Aaron Gordon since Day 1, when he put on that Nuggets uniform, It’s always been about the Nuggets first. He is truly selfless.”

The three off days between Games 2 and 3 did the Wolves no good, yielding a 27-point defeat after which coach Chris Finch declared them feeling “fat and lazy” after all the fawning near and far for their performance in Denver. They needed to reintroduce their edge right away to keep the crowd consistently roaring, and Edwards dutifully led that response.

The 2020 first overall draft pick scored nine points in the first four-plus minutes before Murray even touched the ball, with Gordon and Jokic sharing the point guard duties to reduce the burden on Murray and his strained left calf muscle.

After a quiet Game 3, Edwards was on a mission to will the Wolves to win, as the Nuggets fully expected. Their loading up on him in the lane wasn’t enough, as he hit from everywhere on the court, but the rest of the Wolves frequently failed to make the Nuggets pay for leaving them open.

They missed tip-ins at the rim, not just corner 3s. Towns missed his first seven shots, and while his effort and defense never suffered, he was a mess trying to get the ball to the basket, rarely drawing the fouls he argued for.

“It’s unfortunate that on Mother’s Day I have a shooting performance like that,” Towns said. “But it’s the way the game goes. It’s not a fun game sometimes.”

The Wolves showed off their league-best defense and their enviable depth in the first two games, but the Nuggets copied and pasted that formula on the road. When their secondary scorers and bench players are hitting their jumpers, they’re awfully tough to beat.

Gordon, Justin Holiday (10 points), Christian Braun (11 points) and Reggie Jackson (six points) went a combined 8 for 11 from 3-point range. They fueled a 26-4 run that bridged the first and second quarters, and all but five points on that surge came with the four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gobert resting on the bench.

“They are doing all the dirty, small things that nobody notices,” Jokic said.

You can view the original article HERE.

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