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Wolves pack on late points to polish off champion Nuggets

China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-21 09:41
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Minnesota Timberwolves'Anthony Edwards reacts after hitting a basket during Game 7 of an NBA second-round playoff series, on Sunday in Denver. AP

DENVER — Anthony Edwards overcame a slow start, as the Timberwolves roared back from a 15-point halftime deficit to eliminate the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets 98-90 in a Game 7 Minnesota masterpiece on Sunday night.

It was the largest Game 7 comeback in NBA playoff history, and was driven by Edwards, who had just four points, no rebounds and three assists at halftime, but finished with 16 points, eight boards and seven assists.

His impact belied his 6-of-24 shooting that included a 2-for-10 3-point performance.

"It was tough, man, because I couldn't find myself or my rhythm tonight," Edwards said. "So I just had to trust my teammates. I just had to make the right plays throughout the rest of the game. I did that, and my teammates made shots. Big shout-out to those guys."

As Minnesota took control late in the game, time and again Edwards denied Jamal Murray, who had 24 points by halftime and finished with 35.

"There are more ways to win the basketball game when you're just not an offensive player," Edwards said. "I'm not one-dimensional. I'm not just a guy who can score. I'm a guy who — whoever their best guard is — I can go lock him down. I feel like I did that on Jamal in the third and fourth quarters, and that's what turned the game around."

As the seconds ticked away, Edwards dribbled the ball up court and took time to wave goodbye to the stunned crowd at Ball Arena, where the Nuggets' 33-8 record this season was second-best in the league, but where the Wolves won three times this series.

The Wolves, who got 23 points each from Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels, advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in exactly 20 years. They'll face the Dallas Mavericks, starting Wednesday night, at Target Center.

"It feels great," Wolves center Rudy Gobert said. "Beating a team like them, an incredible team, a championship team, with the best player in the world, it feels good."

Murray, coming off a 4-for-18 shooting performance in the Nuggets' 115-70 loss in Game 6 — the largest ever in the playoffs by a reigning champion — made 13 of 27 shots for 35 points. Nikola Jokic added 34 points to go with 19 rebounds, but the duo got little help, as no other Denver players reached double figures in points.

"So much was being placed on their shoulders," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "We're expecting Jokic and Jamal to continue pulling rabbits out of their hat, man, and somebody else has got to give them some help."

This marked the Timberwolves' first Game 7 since beating Sacramento in the second round exactly 20 years ago. That's the only other time they reached the conference finals. The Nuggets were playing in their fifth Game 7 in the last six seasons, and were seeking a third trip to the conference finals in that time.

"That was a hell of a series," Malone said. "They gave us all we could handle and they ended up winning Game 7 on our home court, which is a tough one to swallow. But we'll be back."

The Nuggets became the fifth consecutive defending champion to fail to reach the conference finals. The last one to do it was Golden State in 2019, when the Warriors reached the NBA Finals only to lose to Toronto.

Agencies Via Xinhua



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