Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets provided the sort of disciplined effort required to stay in the NBA playoffs for an extended period.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a long way to go.
Jokic posted his ninth career postseason triple-double with 20 points, 11 12 assists, and 11 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Timberwolves 120-111 on Friday night to grab a 3-0 series lead.
“We don’t want to give them life,” said by Jokic, the two-time NBA MVP who led the league this season with 29 triple-doubles. “We wanted to take the initiative. We intended to start by punching them.”
Michael Porter Jr. had 25 points and nine rebounds, and Jamal Murray added 18 points and nine assists as Denver held off another daring performance by Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards to send a raucous crowd of white-shirted supporters home after yet another disappointing postseason loss.
Mike Malone, the Denver Nuggets coach, expressed his pride in the team
They conducted themselves professionally, as mature teams would.
Gobert, Rudy had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves, while Karl-Anthony Towns scored 27 points after scoring just 21 points in the first two games. However, a defensive blunder here and a hurried 3-pointer there were enough to doom the Wolves against a Denver Nuggets team that was finally healthy adequately for another run at the NBA Finals.
Coach Chris Finch said, “Our decision-making on offense just kind of let us down.”
Denver enjoyed a 29-10 advantage in bench points, led by Bruce Brown’s 12 points, and the Nuggets shot a formidable 57% from the floor.
Sunday is the fourth game.
We don’t want to return to Denver, no offense to the T-wolves, but this is about us, Malone said.
The Denver Nuggets’ directive from the coach was to keep the gas pedal firmly depressed and not give the underdog Wolves any more confidence as they held their first 2-0 lead in nine postseason series under Malone.
The Western Conference’s top team outjumped the Wolves for practically every lengthy rebound and shot like its playoff seeding was on the line
The Nuggets went on two 9-0 runs in the first half, and they made 12 of their first 16 attempts in the second quarter to open up a 13-point advantage.
Edwards, who set a franchise playoff record with 41 points in Game 2, single-handedly saved the Wolves with a starburst that only somebody like him can provide.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope intercepted a poor pass from Towns, and Edwards hustled for the block and soon made a Euro-step layup on the opposite end. Right before halftime, the Wolves maintained their pace and reduced the deficit to 61-55. By the time the third quarter was up, they were still within six points.
Towns and Gobert, the unusual big-man tandem the Wolves constructed when former Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly left for the same position in Minnesota and orchestrated a blockbuster deal for Gobert, helped the Wolves win their play-in game here a week ago.
With 5:51 remaining in the third quarter, Towns got Jokic’s fourth foul, and the Wolves improved their attack on the basket compared to their performance in the first two games. However, the 7-foot Serb is simply too skillful and heavy to be defeated in this manner.
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