Timberwolves eliminate defending champion Nuggets (2024)

The Timberwolves beat the Nuggets on Sunday in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal. Staff writer Chris Hine provided these updates from Ball Arena in Denver.

9:30 p.m.: Wolves win it

For two decades, Game 7 of the 2004 second round series in which the Timberwolves beat the Kings stood as the franchise's shining moment.

It finally got some company.

The Wolves, 20 years to the day of that previous victory, came through with a performance that will echo through team history with a 98-90 Game 7 comeback victory over the defending champion Nuggets at Ball Arena on Sunday.

The win gave the Timberwolves the NBA Western Conference semifinal series four games to three, and sent them to the conference finals against Dallas in a series that starts Wednesday night at Target Center.

In the ultimate test of their mental fortitude, a team that got tossed out of the playoffs last season in five games by this same team came back from a 20-point second-half deficit on their home floor.

The Wolves outscored Denver 60-37 in the second half.

For some on the Wolves, personal legacies were re-written on Sunday night. The team's president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly, received a fair amount of flack for the decision to trade for Rudy Gobert two summers ago, but Connelly built a Wolves team that took down his former squad; he had been the Nuggets' general manager before being lured away to Minnesota.

And center Karl-Anthony Towns, who suffered through several losing seasons and playoff disappointment, who heard that he might be a liability in these playoffs with his propensity to get in foul trouble and lose emotional control, was one of the best Wolves on the night when his fellow All-Star, Anthony Edwards, was struggling.

Towns finished with 23 points and the ultimate exclamation point, a putback slam of a Mike Conley miss with 40.3 seconds to play. Jaden McDaniels had 21 and Edwards had 16 on 6-for-24 shooting while battling double teams all night.

Jamal Murray was dynamite for Denver, scoring 35 points. MVP Nikola Jokic added 34, but no other Nugget was in double figures and they only got five points from their bench.

A series that featured several blowouts finally had a game that came down to the wire after the Wolves erased a 20-point third-quarter deficit to take a 77-72 lead. The Wolves got some offense early in the fourth from Gobert, who started the quarter off with an improbable bank shot.

After the Wolves look disorganized on offense in the first half, they were finally starting to hit some open shots in the second half. Conley and McDaniels provided key buckets, and Gobert then poured in another hard-to-believe shot, this time a shot-clock beating, high-arcing fadeaway.

A key moment happened with 6:57 to play, when Towns picked up his fifth foul.

The Wolves subbed in Naz Reid, who came up with a layup and a pair of free throws to give the Wolves an 87-82 lead. He then had a block of Jokic and a putback slam off an Edwards miss to put the Wolves up 89-82.

Conley came up with a steal of Jamal Murray on the next possession and that set up Edwards, who had been struggling all night, for an open three in the corner. Edwards, never deterred from taking his shots, pulled the trigger and connected on just his second three of the night. The Wolves led 92-82 with 3:05 to play.

Gobert fouled out with 2:05 to play and finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, with eight of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

Score updates and in-game boxscore: Tap here

8:51 p.m.: When things looked bleak, the Wolves came roaring back

After falling behind as much as 20, the Wolves have made it a game entering the fourth quarter at Ball Arena and trail 67-66 entering the fourth quarter.

The Wolves fell behind as much as 20, 58-38, early in the third as Anthony Edwards' offensive issues carried over from one half to the next. On one possession, he missed and open three and after the Wolves got the rebound, he airballed a contested midrange jumper.

His teammates picked him up for the Wolves' best stretch of the night. Threes from Jaden McDaniels and Mike Conley were part of a 15-1 Wolves run that brought Minnesota back within 59-53.

The Wolves kept forcing players other than Nikola Jokic beat them, and Denver went cold to the tune of 5-for-19 in the third quarter. An Edwards dunk in transition brought the Wolves within 61-57 with three minutes to play and forced a Denver timeout.

The quarter ended with Edwards hitting a step back three over Aaron Gordon to pull the Wolves within one. Towns was up to 21 points by the end of the third as he also picked up four fouls.

8:05 p.m.: Jamal Murray has Nuggets in control at halftime

The Wolves offense — and Anthony Edwards — appeared lost for a good chunk of the first half, and they trail the Nuggets 53-38 at halftime.

It was the lowest-scoring first half of the season for the Wolves.

Edwards could not get going offensively for the Wolves and their scoring struggled as a result. He began the game 1-for-7 and had just four points at halftime. Denver sent double teams his way often to force the ball out of his hands, and the Wolves could not capitalize the way they did in Game 6.

Denver scored 16 unanswered points across the end of the first and opening minutes of their second quarters to take a 32-19 lead as Edward's could not find room to operate.

Jamal Murray finished the half with 22 points for the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic already has 15 rebounds for Denver.

The Wolves took Edwards out of the game and had one of their best stretches of offense as he cooled off. Jaden McDaniels had five points in a 10-2 spurt that pulled the Wolves within 34-29. But the Nuggets punched right back with six quick points to extend the lead back to double digits.

The Wolves' tendency to let the officiating get in their heads began to creep in during the quarter, as McDaniels picked up his third foul that put Denver into the bonus.

Denver's defense swarmed the Wolves most of the half and forced the Wolves to shoot just 12-for-38 (32%).

Their best offensive player in the half was Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. When Denver opened a 48-33 lead, Towns scored five straight points to force a Denver timeout with 2:13 to play.

The Wolves supporting cast outside of McDaniels (10 points) was having a rough night. Mike Conley was just 1-for-7, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was 0-for-5 and Rudy Gobert was 0-for-3.

7:29 p.m.: Both teams start cold, Nuggets finish hot

If there's a barometer for how this series has gone so far, it has been the play of Denver guard Jamal Murray. When Murray plays well, the Nuggets win. When he doesn't, the Wolves win.

And Murray came to play in the first quarter of Game 7 with 13 points as Denver leads 24-19 after one.

Whether through excitement, nerves, anxiety or all of the above, both teams couldn't put the ball in the basket to open the night as they each opened 2-for-9.

The Wolves had some stellar defensive plays in the opening minutes as both Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels had big blocks at the rim; Gobert of Michael Porter Jr. after Porter had blocked him on the other end, and McDaniels of Aaron Gordon.

The Wolves held the Nuggets in just five points in the opening six minutes and had a 12-5 lead.

But Denver responded with the next seven points to tie the score. After a 1-for-4 start, Murray got rolling by hitting four of his next six shots two of his next three shots, including a pair of threes at the end of the quarter that gave Denver the lead.

Nikola Jokic had six points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Wolves spread their scoring around as Anthony Edwards, double-teamed, got off to a slow start shooting (1-for-5). Karl-Anthony Towns stayed out of foul trouble with just one and had six points.

5:47 p.m.: "We're a great team. And we're going against another great team."

Game 7 is here and one team already advanced to the conference finals on the road with Indiana winning for the first time all series in Madison Square Garden in moving past the Knicks.

The Wolves know they can win in Ball Arena, having done it in two of the three games held in Denver before Sunday.

But Anthony Edwards said after Saturday's practice those games don't matter much.

"That's behind us. That don't give us any confidence," Edwards said. "I think we're confident just because we're a great team. And we're going against another great team and we feel like we're the better team. That's all the confidence that we need. The two previous games don't mean anything."

Coach Chris Finch's pregame media availability tonight was short — there's not much to ask headed into a Game 7 — but he was asked if the season would be a success should the Wolves lose Game 7.

"I would say it's another step forward," Finch said. "We're trying to build something here. Better to evaluate those things when it's all said and done, but we've had a great season. These guys have done a great job of coming together, leaning on an identity, playing for each other. But we don't feel like our work is done, so we're excited tonight to get a win."

Point guard Mike Conley (right soleus strain) was listed as questionable, but he started.

And ... Scott Foster heads officiating crew

Wolves center Rudy Gobert was fined once during the regular season, then earlier in this series, for rubbing his fingers together in a "money sign" after calls by referee Scott Foster.

Foster is the lead official tonight, with David Guthrie and Curtis Blair the other referees. The Wolves are 3-1 this postseason in games with that crew.

Gobert drew a $75,000 fine after Game 4′s loss in Denver after paying $100,000 during the season for a slightly more obvious gesture.

After the second fine, he said, "Individually, collectively, we got to, whatever happens, we got to focus on what we can control and definitely can control our emotions and control the way we react to adversity and react to anything that happens on the court."

Timberwolves eliminate defending champion Nuggets (2024)
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