PHOENIX SUNS

Timberwolves advance after defeating defending NBA champion Nuggets in Game 7

May 19, 2024, 7:58 PM | Updated: 7:59 pm

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball...

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, left, looks to drive to the basket as Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, center, and forward Aaron Gordon defend in the first half of Game 7 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — 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.

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.

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 — led Denver with 35 points. Jokic added 34 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists.

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.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before tipoff he didn’t think Game 7 would be a blowout after the ones delivered in Games 2, 3 and 6. He figured it would come down to the wire, but “maybe not because this is one of the strangest series I’ve ever been a part of.”

The Nuggets’ big blown lead only added to the oddity of the series.

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