NBA: Edwards sparks Wolves blowout win over Nuggets; force Game 7 in West series

NBA: Edwards sparks Wolves blowout win over Nuggets; force Game 7 in West series

The Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to an unprecedented 115-70 win over the Denver Nuggets at Target Center on Thursday night to force a Game 7 and avoid elimination in their Western Conference second-round playoff series.

Following their mid-series slump, which saw them lose the last three games, the Timberwolves knew they couldn’t leave their home arena in Minnesota without a win if they were to have any chance of reaching the Conference Finals.

A win it was for the Wolves, who looked inspired and totally different from the team that has been played off the park by the Nuggets since Game 3. Their intent was clear from the beginning, as they rushed to a 17-point lead after the first quarter.

Anthony Edwards led the Wolves with 27 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 3s, as they ended the game recording the largest winning margin in a postseason game since 2015, when the Chicago Bulls outscored the Milwaukee Bucks by 54 points in Game 7 of their first-round series.

“Guys just believing in themselves,” the former No. 1 pick said about their win. “I think the last 3 games, we were all down on ourselves like just trying to point the finger, blame somebody.

“I think today, before the game, the coaches, the whole staff did a great job of putting a clip together of plays that we made in the 2 games that we won. And everybody started to believe after that little edit that they put together. I can tell the energy shifted after that little edit. That was a big time.”

The Timberwolves were different on Thursday night, looking once again like the team that ended the regular season with the league’s best defensive rating. They held the Nuggets to just 14 points in the opening quarter, tied for the second-lowest in the league this postseason behind the Miami Heat, who hit 12 points in a Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics in the first round.

Minnesota, whose bench outscored the Nuggets 36-9, led by as much as 50 points, combining their potent offense with a defensive masterclass. They outrebounded Denver 62-43, forcing them to 12 turnovers while holding them to 30.2% from the field and a meager 19.4% from the 3-point mark.

The Wolves scored more points in the paint (46-36); got more second-chance points (15-12); and thanks to their superior defensive rebounding, they outscored the Nuggets 18-9 on fastbreak points.

“We talked a lot today just about getting our edge back, our swagger, playing a little freer and easier,” coach Chris Finch said. “It just felt like we hadn’t had our best effort on both sides of the ball yet.”

Jaden McDaniels added 21 points for Minnesota; the returning Mike Conley, who sat out Game 5 with right leg soreness, poured in 13 points; Karl-Anthony Towns settled for 10 points and 13 rebounds; and Rudy Gobert had eight points and 14 rebounds.

Meanwhile, three-time MVP Nikola Jokic was held to 22 points and nine rebounds on 9 of 19 shots on the floor. Jamal Murray struggled again, finishing with 10 points while shooting 4 of 18 from the field.

Aaron Gordon added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who shot just 7 for 36 from 3-point range as a team. Michael Porter Jr. settled for eight points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope managed just nine points.

The Nuggets took home the unwanted record of being the first defending NBA champion to lose a playoff game by more than 36 points. However, they are provided the opportunity to right their wrongs and close out the series on homecourt when they host the Wolves in the deciding Game 7 on Sunday night at Ball Arena.

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