The Denver Nuggets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-108 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round NBA playoff series. Nikola Jokic had his seventh career triple-double in the playoffs with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists for the Denver Nuggets. The victory gave the Denver Nuggets a lead of 3-0 in the series.
Jamal Murray added 18 points and nine assists as Denver withstood another dashing performance by Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards to send a loud crowd of fans wearing white shirts home from another frustrating postseason loss. Michael Porter Jr. had 25 points and nine rebounds for Denver, while Anthony Edwards had another dashing performance for Minnesota.
Sunday night will be the start of Game 4.
Edwards scored 36 points to bring his series total to 95, Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points after totaling only 21 points through the first two games of the series, and Rudy Gobert had 18 points and ten rebounds for the Wolves; however, a defensive lapse here and a rushed 3-pointer there was enough to seal their fate against a well-rounded Nuggets team that is finally healthy enough for a run at the NBA finals.
The Nuggets held a commanding 29-10 advantage in bench points thanks to Bruce Brown’s 12 points, and they shot an impressive 57% from the floor as a team.
With the Nuggets owning a 2-0 series lead for the first time in any of Mike Malone’s nine postseason series, the team received the directive from their coach to maintain the pedal to the metal and not give the underdog Wolves any further confidence.
The top team in the Western Conference responded by shooting the ball as if it’s seeding in the tournament relied on it and out-leaping the Wolves for almost every long rebound. The Nuggets started the second quarter by scoring 12 of their first 16 shots and built a 13-point lead. Throughout the first half, the Nuggets had two runs of 9-0 and could scarcely do anything wrong.
Then, Edwards, who had 41 points in Game 2 for the franchise postseason record, single-handedly pulled the Wolves back with the sort of starburst that only guys like him are capable of. He had the kind of performance that gave the Wolves back to life.
Edwards worked hard to get the block, and when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stole a careless pass by Towns, Edwards promptly scored a Euro-step layup on the opposite end of the court. The Wolves maintained their charge and scored 61-55 just before halftime. By the conclusion of the third quarter, they were only down by a score of six points.
The Wolves won their play-in game here a week ago by going big on the backs of Towns and Gobert, the unlikely pairing they created when former Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly bolted for the same job in Minnesota and swung a blockbuster trade for Gobert. The Wolves won their play-in game by going big on the backs of Towns and Gobert.
The Wolves attacked the basket more effectively than they had in the previous two games, and Towns got Jokic’s fourth foul with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter. Yet, the 7-foot Serb is too good and too much of a burden to be defeated in that manner.
Throughout the regular season, the two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player recorded a league-high 29 triple-doubles, placing him in the first place.
When Wolves head coach Chris Finch was questioned before the game about Jokic’s influence on providing space for Murray and his shooting, he took a subtle aim at how he felt Jokic, who has 14 fouls in the series, is officiated. Jokic now leads the series in fouls with 14.
Finch, putting on his best deadpan performance, said, “He does a pretty fantastic job at screening, and moving and screening at the same time, those sorts of things.”
In the summer of 2013, at his introductory press conference, Gobert made light of Finch’s charges that he had engaged in improper screening with Utah.
Caldwell-Pope of the Nuggets scored 11 of his team’s 14 points in the second quarter, going a perfect 3 for four from beyond the arc. After going 10 for 20 from deep in the first two games, Murray was 1 for six from deep in the third game.
Towns had a tremendous game for the Timberwolves, going 10 for 17 from the floor after starting the season shooting only 8 for 27. Throughout the match, he had a 3-point shooting percentage of 5 for 16. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was included in the team’s starting lineup after his return. In just 22 minutes, he scored eight points.