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NBA playoffs: Timberwolves rally from 20-point deficit to stun Nuggets in Game 7, reach conference finals


NBA playoffs: Timberwolves rally from 20-point deficit to stun Nuggets in Game 7, reach conference finals

Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets were poised to close out their series without much of an issue on Sunday night.

They had built up a 20-point lead in the second half and largely shut down Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, after all. Yet somehow, despite what was a largely awful offensive showing in the first 24 minutes, the Timberwolves pulled off the largest halftime comeback in a Game 7 in NBA history.

The Timberwolves came storming back to stun the defending champions and grab a 98-90 win in Game 7 of their semifinals series at Ball Arena on Sunday night. They outscored the Nuggets 60-37 in the second half while completing a wild 30-point swing.

The win officially sends the Timberwolves into their first Western Conference finals in two decades. The Timberwolves are now a perfect 2-0 in Game 7s in history, too.

“It’s a special moment,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said after the game. “That’s a hell of a team with the best player on the planet, and this series was wild. This game was a microcosm of the series.”

After a very slow and defensive start to the game — both teams combined to shoot just 6-of-24 from the field to open the night — the Nuggets finally took off before halftime. They ended up going on an 18-3 run over the end of the first period and the start of the second and took full control of the game. They held the Timberwolves without a field goal for more than five full minutes during that stretch, and then they held them scoreless for the final two minutes of the half to take a 15-point lead into the break.

Jokić had a 15-rebound double-double by that point, while Edwards shot just 1-of-7 from the field.

But somehow, after being stagnant offensively for most of the game, the Timberwolves came alive in the third quarter. After falling behind by 20 points, they mounted a 19-3 run and held the Nuggets without a field goal for more than six full minutes. Denver ended up missing 13 of its last 16 shots to end the third quarter.

Edwards, despite a brutal shooting streak to start the game, drilled a wild step-back 3-pointer over Aaron Gordon to cut the deficit to just a single point at the end of the period. That capped a 28-9 run.

The Timberwolves didn’t stop there. They kept a step ahead of the Nuggets well into the fourth quarter. Rudy Gobert even sank a fadeaway jumper early in the period.

Then Naz Reid showed out to close out the night. He pulled off a ridiculous put-back dunk over Jokić in the final minutes to put the Timberwolves up by seven before he set up Edwards on a fast-break 3-pointer just seconds later. Just like that, a 30-point turnaround was complete, and the Timberwolves were in complete control of the game.

Though the Nuggets didn’t go away, the Timberwolves held on in the final minute to officially seal the eight-point win.

“The season’s over, that’s what’s hard,” a frustrated Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. “F*** being up 20. The season’s over, you don’t understand that. The season’s over, it’s hard.”

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 23 points and 11 rebounds in the win. Edwards had 16 points, all but four of which came in the second half, and eight rebounds and seven assists. He shot just 6-of-24 from the field and 2-of-10 from the 3-point line. Jaden McDaniels finished with 21 points. The Timberwolves shot just 10-of-34 from behind the arc as a team and less than 40% from the field as a unit.

Jokić finished with 34 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists. He shot just 2-of-10 from behind the arc. Murray finished with 35 points after shooting 4-of-11 from behind the arc. The duo were the only Nuggets players to hit double figures on the night, and the Nuggets had just five points come from off the bench.

Now that they’ve beaten the Nuggets, the Timberwolves will now advance to the Western Conference final where Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks are waiting.

The Mavericks closed out the Oklahoma City Thunder in their semifinals series on Saturday night in Dallas. Dončić put up his third-straight triple-double while leading the Mavericks to the 4-2 series win, which officially eliminated the top seed in the Western Conference. The Mavericks are now in their second conference finals in the past three seasons.

Game 1 of the Western Conference finals is set for Wednesday night in Minneapolis. It will be the Timberwolves’ second-ever appearance in the conference finals. They fell in the 2004 series to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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