Sports

Timberwolves beat Denver 98-90, head to Western Conference Finals

Edwards leads Wolves back from 20-point deficit for win over defending NBA champion Nuggets

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards yells as time runs out in the second half of Game 7 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP

Updated 10:40 p.m.

Anthony Edwards overcame a slow start and the Timberwolves roared back from a 20-point second-half deficit to eliminate the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets 98-90 in a Game 7 Minnesota masterpiece on Sunday night.

The Timberwolves overcame a 15-point halftime deficit — the largest comeback in a Game 7 in NBA playoff history — behind 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.

As the seconds ticked away, Edwards dribbled the ball upcourt and took time to wave good-bye to the crowd.

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 beginning Wednesday night at Target Center.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Seven
Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket against Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the third quarter in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs at Ball Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
C. Morgan Engel | Getty Images

The Nuggets became the fifth consecutive defending champion to fail to reach the conference finals. Behind Jamal Murray's 24 first-half points, the Nuggets raced to a 53-38 halftime lead and Murray's 3-pointer with 10:50 left in the third pushed Denver's lead to 58-38.

The Wolves turned to their defense, the NBA's stingiest, to get back into the game, and they closed the quarter on a 28-9 run to pull to 67-66 heading into the fourth.

Rudy Gobert gave the Wolves their first lead since the first quarter with a bucket to start the fourth and when Towns picked up his fifth foul, Naz Reid, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, was spectacular at both ends of the floor to keep Minnesota ahead.

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid, center, drives to the basket past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, as Minnesota center Rudy Gobert looks on in the second half.
David Zalubowski | AP

In one crucial stretch that started with Minnesota ahead 85-82, Reid had two free throws and a dunk before feeding Edwards for a back-breaking 3-pointer that put the Wolves ahead 92-82 with three minutes left.

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. 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 some help.”

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., left, drives to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in the first half Sunday.
David Zalubowski | AP

This marked the Timberwolves’ first Game 7 since beating Sacramento in the second round exactly 20 years earlier. 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 their third trip to the conference finals in that span.

“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.

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, left, hugs Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards after Game 7.
David Zalubowski | AP

“The one thing I keep on going back to right now is I consider the San Antonio Spurs a dynasty and they never won back-to-back,” Malone said. “So losing, the hurt of it, the pain of it, it helped us win our first championship. Can we use this year?”

Murray thinks so.

“For sure,” he said. “It's back to being the hunter.”

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