Nuggets tie series with another impressive road win over the Wolves, 115-107

Denver holds off a late rally from Minnesota to tie the series

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver found its opportunistic third scorer and secondary facilitator tonight in Aaron Gordon in its game 4 triumph Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Denver absorbed yet another strong start by Minnesota and utilized a 26-4 run, turbocharged by their bench, in the middle part of the first half to put the Wolves in a hole that they ultimately would not fight out of tonight in the game 4 win. The Nuggets would shoot a scorching 57% from the field (and over 60% for most of the action) and 45% from three to apply crushing pressure to the vaunted Minnesota defense. It was an 8-0 run Denver made in the final moments of the opening half to put an end to what was the strongest Wolves rally.

As promised in his game 3 post-game interview, Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards (44 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists) shined brightest tonight in the loss. Though there were five double-digit scorers for the Wolves, it was Mike Conley’s 15 points that were the second-highest, which proved to be insufficient especially during the dry spells the team had in each half.

With their crunchtime star, Jamal Murray, in early foul trouble, Nikola Jokic (35 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals), just like in the Lakers series, found needed secondary help in Aaron Gordon (27 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks) – who hit his first 10 shots. Murray chipped in 19 points and 8 assists, while Justin Holliday (10 points) and Christian Braun (11 points) supplied bench strength.

Edwards took the scoring mantle from the get-go to stake the Wolves to a lead. Jokic took on more of an assertive playmaker role for much of the frame. Naz Reid’s pull-up three in transition put Minnesota up seven. Though it felt as if the home team was in charge, Denver pieced together an 12-0 run behind Reggie Jackson’s leadership to put themselves on top. While Towns started the game a horrid 0-for-7, Jokic’s baseline jumper put his team up five to make it 29-24.

Holliday’s two threes allowed the Nuggets to go ahead by 11 early in the second. Gordon’s facilitation helped immensely during the big run Denver made. While Minnesota was forced to a point-guard-by-committee approach with Conley drawing his third foul, the visitors got nine straight field goals from a variety of Nuggets. The game became Edwards’ scoring prowess versus Denver’s shared excellence. The Nuggets closed with an audacious flourish – Caldwell-Pope three, a Porter, Jr. transition dunk, and a steal and a 55-foot desperation heave from Murray – to go up 64-49.

The teams came out shooting in the third period and traded blows feverishly. Gordon confidently tossed in a three and threw down a tip-dunk to keep the Wolves at bay. Edwards seemed conspicuously absent for more half of the quarter until a shotclock beating banker, and then the flood of his buckets came after that. Yet, Denver continued to fend off any run with its own tough shot-making and they exited the quarter up 11.


If a series doesn’t start until the road team wins, what does it mean when the road team wins each of the first four games?
If Minnesota somehow loses this series, it feels like a referendum on how much of an upgrade on Towns (i.e., disappearing act) it needs in the halfcourt offense to extend future playoff runs.
Is this the first series in his career that Kyle Anderson is truly too ‘slow’ or not athletic enough to keep up with the opponent?

During one late possession in the first period, Edwards screamed after contact on a drive, and then Towns also screamed while trying to get the loose carom. They both ended up trailing the play while Denver scored at the other end.
The Jordanesque move Edwards did late in the third quarter brought CHILLS… and then there was the driving Pippenesque dunk he did at the end of the third.
The Minnesota halfcourt execution really does stall out noticeably for some jarring periods of time each game. In the first quarter, they went without a field goal for 4+ minutes.
Though the first scores featured his less-heralded teammates, Edwards’ soaring transition lay-up and two jumpers started the fireworks in earnest for the Wolves. Jokic willed home a tough jumper on Towns to cut the deficit to two. Murray picked up his second foul vainly defending an Edwards’ attempt. Despite Edwards’ output, the Nuggets snuck into the lead late in the frame. Reggie Jackson’s second bucket put Denver up four, and the team’s closing run put them ahead 29-24.
Holllday did damage from the outside to start the second, while Gordon and Jokic led the way in the paint to push their advantage to 16 quickly. After Murray’s stepback jumper over Jaden McDaniels, Jamal Crawford gushed “He got a special relationship with the basket.” It also helped Denver Jokic hit nearly every attempt he put up. Edwards’ knifing drive and lay-up cut the lead to nine. Gordon’s baseline drive and dunk pushed the lead back out to a dozen. Caldwell-Pope (3-point), Gordon (dunk), and especially Murray (55-foot shot) made sure that Minnesota had a lot to think about at the break.

The teams left the half still shooting very well, but it was Gordon’s three that nudged the Denver lead to 18. A pair of gorgeous buckets from Edwards drew Minnesota within ten momentarily. Murray’s drive and floater pushed the Wolves’ deficit back out to 17. Despite Edwards’ theatrics, the Nuggets still went into the fourth up 90-79.
Despite having its first scoring drought to start the fourth, the Nuggets were still able to prevent the Wolves from getting within six or less. Rudy Gobert missed several freebies during these minutes. A “Beautiful Game” possession yielded a Braun three to put Denver up 13. Denver was content to match baskets with Minnesota for wide swaths of the quarter. Gobert’s tip shaved the deficit to eight, but was quickly answered by a Jokic stork floater, which proved to be the clinching points. Conley appeared to injure his shoulder defending a Braun dunk attempt.

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