Nuggets rally from 15, knock out Timberwolves in thriller behind Nikola Jokic’s triple-double

DENVER, CO - APRIL 25: Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray (27) reacts giving the Nuggets the lead with teammates Nikola Jokic (15) and Aaron Gordon (50) during the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Ball Arena in Denver on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
The Denver Nuggets are through to the second round. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t ready for the end of their season on Tuesday.

The Denver Nuggets didn’t care.

After earning a dramatic Game 4 victory in overtime to extend the streak, the Timberwolves opened up a 15-point first-quarter leader in Game 5. But the top-seeded Nuggets ultimately did what they were. supposed to do at home.

They responded to the early deficit to take a 48-47 halftime lead, then held off a late Timberwolves rally for a 112-109 win to secure a 4-1 series win. Nikola Jokic led the way with his eighth career playoff triple-double. A 3-point play on a flat by Jamal Murray helped freeze the game with 28 seconds left.

The Timberwolves had one last chance, trailing by three with the ball and 2.5 seconds left. But an Anthony Edwards 3-pointer bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

The Nuggets’ victory sets up a second-round game against the Phoenix Suns, who eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers later Tuesday night. The Timberwolves are looking for their first playoff victory since 2004.

Denver had to fight for this one. Edwards scored eight of Minnesota’s first 13 points as the Timberwolves opened up a 27-12 lead. They held a 29-22 lead after the first quarter.

But Jamal Murray kept the Nuggets close and eventually led them to a one-point halftime advantage in a 16-point first half. He culminated with an unlikely float above his head with his back to the basket.

Michael Porter Jr, meanwhile, failed to break through the scoreboard for two quarters. The game remained close after halftime and went into the third quarter tied at 77-77. Porter was left scoreless after missing his first seven field goals, but broke the drought with a dunk to extend Denver’s lead to 84-80.

The Nuggets held the lead for most of the fourth quarter, including a 102-96 lead with 2:58 remaining. But a 6-0 Timberwolves run capped by an Edwards layup tied the game at 102-102. A Karl-Anthony Towns jumper tied the game again at 104-104. But five straight points from Jokic gave the Nuggets a 109-104 lead with 28 seconds left.

Minnesota kept the pressure on in the dying seconds of the game, but never regained the lead or tied again.

Jokic finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in his second triple-double of the series. Murray led the scoring effort with 35 points alongside 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Porter had his last three shots to finish with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals.

Edwards capped off a stellar streak that saw him average 31.6 points with a 29-point effort, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But he missed all 6 of his 3-point attempts, including an open look with a chance to tie the game at the buzzer.

Rudy Gobert had 16 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Towns had perhaps its best game of the series with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. But neither he nor Gobert were on the ground in the last seconds after the fault of the two players.

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