NBA: Nuggets blow out Timberwolves, avoid 0-3 hole

NBA: Nuggets blow out Timberwolves, avoid 0-3 hole

/ 01:14 PM May 11, 2024

Jamal Murray Nuggets beat Timberwolves Game 3 NBA playoffs

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, front left, works toward the basket as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, right, defends during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 10, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

MINNEAPOLIS — Jamal Murray rebounded from a rough start to the NBA Western Conference semifinals with 24 points to lead the Denver Nuggets on a 117-90 romp in Game 3 on Friday night that made the Minnesota Timberwolves the last team in the NBA to lose this postseason.

Nikola Jokic, the three-time league NBA MVP, had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, Michael Porter Jr. scored 21 points and the Nuggets cut theTimberwolves’ series lead to 2-1 on the strength of their 14-for-29 shooting from 3-point range.

Anthony Edwards had a quiet 19 points to lead the Timberwolves, who went just 10 for 32 from deep even with a 4-for-5 effort from Karl-Anthony Towns. They failed to get Towns (14 points) enough shots, fumbled the ball too often in desperate attempts to drive to the basket and simply played slower than they did in the first two games in Denver, falling behind by as many as 34 points down the stretch.


READ: NBA: Coach Malone asks Nuggets to play like defending champions

Game 4 is in Minneapolis on Sunday night.

The Nuggets became the 30th team in the history of the NBA playoffs to lose the first two games at home in a best-of-seven series, according to Sportradar research. Five of them have rallied to win, most recently the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round in 2021.

“You’re always testing and finding out about human nature and what guys are made of,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone, who showed his team a mashup of national TV analysts declaring the series over. “If that doesn’t resonate with you as a competitor I don’t know what will.”


This was the step forward Denver badly needed, breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time in three games against Minnesota’s NBA-best defense.

Murray, who totaled just 25 points on 9-for-32 shooting with a minus-38 rating over the first two games and drew a $100,000 fine from the NBA for chucking a heat pack onto the floor from the bench, was roundly booed every time he touched the ball.


The stone-faced point guard thrived on a mix of spot-up jumpers and fadeaways set up by dribble-handoffs, clearly with more spring in his step after three days to rest the strained left calf muscle that has hampered him over the last few weeks. Jokic and Aaron Gordon helped initiate the offense, alleviating the ball-handling load on Murray.

READ: NBA: Denver Nuggets frustrated in Game 2 loss to Timberwolves 

“His teammates freed him up, but he was aggressive and saw the ball go in early,” Malone said. “I think he does kind of relish those moments where he’s the bad guy.”

The defending champions not only brought the energy they promised would return after their no-show at home, but they hit enough of their shots to help keep the Timberwolves and their active rotations honest. The whistles tightened up, and Timberwolves defensive ace Jaden McDaniels was limited by foul trouble.

This was by far the most meaningful game staged at Target Center in 20 years since Minnesota beat Sacramento in Game 7 to reach the conference finals, and the raucous atmosphere matched the moment for a fan base that has been as perpetually discouraged as any in American pro sports. The “Wolves in four!” chant that popped up from some confident visitors down the stretch of that head-turning Game 2 dominance in Denver erupted right before the opening tip.

The Nuggets controlled the noise by creeping to a 28-20 edge after the first quarter, their largest lead of the series to date, and they didn’t stop there. They were up by 20 points late in the second quarter.

The Timberwolves got NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert back after he missed Game 2 for the birth of his son, but the Nuggets zipped the ball around so well outside of the paint so well that his long arms were largely a non-factor.

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Gordon swished back-to-back 3-pointers and Porter hit one on the next possession midway through the third quarter to make it 72-50 and thwart another mini-Wolves rally.

By early in the fourth, fans began to file out of their seats. Frustrated by the accumulation of calls against them on the night, Wolves reserves Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson each were slapped with technical fouls during a timeout with 5:54 left for arguing with the officials.

TAGS: Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves

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