T-wolves hand Nuggets 1st loss in wire-to-wire 110-89 rout, hit 26 of 27 free throws
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards scored 24 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who delivered the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets their first loss in five games this season with a 110-89 victory Wednesday in the first rematch of their first-round playoff series from last spring.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 21 points and eight rebounds and Mike Conley had 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting for the Timberwolves (2-2), who went 26 for 27 from the free-throw line and led from start to finish.
Nikola Jokic had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Jamal Murray scored 14 points for the Nuggets (4-1), who shot just 6 for 33 from 3-point range. Michael Porter Jr. was 2 for 11 from the floor.
Edwards found a huge hole in the lane and soared to the basket for a slam at the first-half buzzer, pulling himself above the rim with a hearty scream as the Wolves surged to the locker room with a 63-44 lead. They were ahead by 19 points at the break in their previous game in Atlanta, too, before the Hawks blew by them to win by 14 points.
The second half provided an early litmus test of sorts on Minnesota’s maturity. Would these Wolves withstand the inevitable charge from the defending champions or wilt down the stretch like the same old up-and-down bunch?
Murray, who started 0 for 9 from the floor and didn’t hit one until 8:57 was left in the third quarter, got hot with 12 points in the period. The Wolves had plenty of responses, particularly from the calm-and-cool point guard Conley and reserves Kyle Anderson (nine points) and Naz Reid (16 points, five rebounds).
Jokic, who had his 107th career triple-double in the win over Utah on Monday, shot an uncharacteristic 11 for 23 from the field. The two-time NBA MVP had just three assists.
Denver disposed of Minnesota in five games last spring, but the Wolves — who played the series without Reid and Jaden McDaniels, their best defender — made the Nuggets work for their wins as much as any of the four postseason opponents they felled on the path to the title. Denver coach Mike Malone confirmed as much in a postgame reflection about that matchup.
The Nuggets trailed by a paltry total of just 4:17 over their first four games, never by more than four points, but they ominously missed their first six shots and quickly found themselves buried by an eager-to-run and more-than-willing-to-defend Wolves team.
Every play seemed to go Minnesota’s way. Rudy Gobert rejected Jokic’s short flip shot, drew a foul on the other end and made free throws for a 59-37 lead that matched the biggest of the half for the Wolves. Gobert even missed his first try, but a lane violation on the Nuggets gave him a mulligan.
Nuggets: Host Dallas on Friday night.
Timberwolves: Host Utah on Saturday night.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.