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NBA: Nuggets even series with Timberwolves at 2-2

MINNEAPOLIS, May 14 ------ 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 Denver Nuggets to a series-tying 115-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals. 


Jamal Murray had 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter for the Nuggets in a momentum carryover from his buzzer-beating swish from behind half court, and the Wolves only cut the deficit below double digits in the second half for brief stretches. Anthony Edwards scored 44 points in another spectacular performance for Minnesota, shooting 16 for 25 from the floor. But despite a 42-31 rebounding edge, the Wolves were beaten at their own game for the second straight time at home by the defending NBA champions, who were fired up after dropping the first two games of the series on their home court. 


The series goes back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday night. 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. Gordon didn’t miss until there was 3:39 to go. The Nuggets scored eight points in 20 seconds to close the first half, highlighted by Murray’s improbable heave. 


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. 


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. 


In other game, After three games that went down to the wire, the Indiana Pacers were off and running early in Game 4. Tyrese Haliburton scored 20 points, T.J. McConnell finished with 15 points and 10 assists and the Pacers routed the Knicks 121-89, using the third-largest playoff victory in the franchise’s NBA history to even the series at 2-2. Pascal Siakam and Obi Toppin each scored 14 points, Aaron Nesmith grabbed 12 rebounds and the Pacers shot 56.8% from the field, 45.2% on 3-pointers and erased their only deficit of the game, 2-0, just 44 seconds into the game. 


The Knicks, who again played without four key players because of injuries, looked fatigued. Alec Burks finished with 20 points for New York. Brunson, who entered the day with a league-best 34.6 points per game in the postseason, scored only 18 on a day the Knicks shot 33.7% from the field, 18.9% on 3s and flirted with posting the worst playoff loss in franchise history. The record, 41, came at Chicago in April 1991. 


Brunson wasn’t the only one struggling. Donte DiVincenzo, who had 35 points in Game 3, scored just seven on Sunday. The two guards were a combined 9 of 30 from the field and 1 of 11 on 3s. 





Editor's Note: 

Here are the current standing of Semi Finals NBA Playoffs: 


Eastern Conference: 

Boston Celtics - 2 Cleveland Cavaliers - 1 

New York Knicks - 2 Indiana Pacers - 2 


Western Conference: 

Oklahoma Thunder - 1 Dallas Mavericks - 2 

Minnesota Timberwolves - 2  Denver Nuggets - 2 


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