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Timberwolves crush Nuggets to stay alive in NBA playoffs

Los Angeles – The Minnesota Timberwolves overwhelmed the Denver Nuggets 115-70 on Thursday to force the defending NBA champions to a decisive game seven in their Western Conference semifinal series.

Anthony Edwards shook off an injury scare to finish with 27 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals as the young, hungry Timberwolves fended off elimination against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, who had won the previous three games to take charge of the best-of-seven series.

Jaden McDaniels scored 21 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 10 points and 14 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves came up big in the must-win game.

The Nuggets will host the winner-take-all game seven on Sunday, but they’ll have to produce a rare feat to keep their title repeat bid alive.

Only five teams have rallied to win an NBA playoff series after dropping the first two games at home, most recently the Los Angeles Clippers against Dallas in the first round in 2021.

With their backs against the wall, the Timberwolves absorbed an early punch, falling behind 9-2 before exploding for a 20-0 scoring run.

They out-scored the Nuggets 31-14 in the first quarter, dominating in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 19-9.

Denver went nearly six minutes without scoring, the crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis growing more frenzied as the Timberwolves’ lead grew.

Another surge by Denver to open the second quarter was quickly repelled with a 13-0 Minnesota run that featured back-to-back baskets from Naz Reid and a three-pointer from Edwards.

Every time the Nuggets looked to be gaining momentum Minnesota responded — their energy rewarded once again as McDaniels grabbed the rebound from a Reid miss for a second-chance basket at the halftime buzzer, giving the Timberwolves a 59-40 lead at the break.

It was more of the same in the third, with Minnesota taking a 66-42 lead when Edwards came up with a steal and threw down a dunk.

Moments later, however, he took a frightening fall under the basket, landing face-first and gesturing to his lower back before the Timberwolves called a timeout.

Edwards was able to make his way to the bench, then gingerly returned to make one of two free throws before seeming to get fully back in the swing.

A step-back three-pointer by Mike Conley — back after missing game five with a calf injury — pushed the Timberwolves’ lead to 29 late in the third quarter.

When Minnesota pushed the lead to 30 on Rudy Gobert’s layup early in the fourth, Denver coach Michael Malone pulled his starters.

Jokic, who accepted his third MVP award in four seasons before scoring 40 points in Denver’s game-five win, finished with 22 points and nine rebounds.

Aaron Gordon scored 12 and Jamal Murray added 10 for Denver on dismal four-for-18 shooting.

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