Live from Timberwolves-Nuggets Game 4


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The Timberwolves and Denver are playing Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series tonight at Target Center, with the Wolves leading the contest 2-1. Staff writer Chris Hine filed this live report:

8:03 pm: Jamal Murray scores at the buzzer from the back half court for a 15-point Nuggets lead

As the buzzer sounded in the second quarter, Denver's Jamal Murray intercepted a pass and threw it 55 feet, giving Denver a 64–49 lead at halftime. The Nuggets shot 64.3% against the elite Wolves defense, as Nikola Jokic had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists.

The Wolves were getting back into the game, slowly chipping away at Denver's lead with their defensive intensity increasing, and the Nuggets threw a haymaker at the end of the quarter.

The Nuggets scored eight points in the final 20 seconds, the first with a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer. After an Anthony Edwards turnover on the other end, Jokic dunked over Michael Porter Jr. Then as time went on the Wolves got careless with the inbounds pass and Murray got a steal and a desperation basket.

The Wolves cut Denver's lead to a seven-point game.

The Wolves bench, which was a force to be reckoned with for them coming into the series, lost to Denver's reserves early in the second quarter. Justin Holiday knocked down a pair of treys to ignite a 12-2 Nuggets run to start the second.

The Wolves trailed by 16, 46–30, with 7:46 left to play in the quarter. Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid were the only attackers for Wolves in the first half.

Edwards finished with 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting while Reed was 4 of 4 with 9 points. Between those two, the Wolves made 6 of 27 shots.

7:34 PM: KAT is 0 for 7, Wolves trail by five after one quarter

The Timberwolves had a lot of energy early and took a seven-point lead, but their offense fell apart as the first quarter wore on and they trailed 29–24 after one quarter.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a rough start, going 0 for 7 in the opening quarter. This contributed to an 8 of 22 performance by the Wolves in the first quarter, while Denver started the night 12 of 19.

League MVP Nikola Jokic came in with more of a scoring mentality to start for Denver, as he had 11 points in the first quarter. Aaron Gordon also scored eight points, helping the Nuggets overcome early trouble from Jamal Murray, who scored two points in the first 6 minutes, 12 seconds.

Anthony Edwards promised to come with more energy for the Wolves, and he did so by hitting his first four shots to score 11 points in the quarter. But aside from Towns' troubles, Mike Conley started the night 1-4.

5:30pm: Layoffs between 2nd and 3rd made Wolves “feel fat and lazy”

After Game 3, Wolves coach Chris Finch said the team may have been distracted by being at home all week before Friday. Before Game 4, Finch was asked what kind of distractions the team might face during the week.

“Do you like your family when they're around all the time?” Finch said laughing.

He referenced several players having children during the season and everyone having to deal with “life stuff” and how it contrasted with being on the road.

“When you're on the road, it's like a bunker mentality,” Finch said. “The day is scheduled for you. That's what we're doing every minute of the day. A house, it's a little different. Got to be a professional, be able to handle it.”

Finch said the break between Games 2 and 3 gave the Wolves a chance to hear plenty of praise after the blowout Game 2 win.

“The long layoff definitely made us feel fat and lazy, with everyone telling us how well we played,” Finch said. “They did an incredible job of coming out and setting the tone on us. We didn't really respond and they got our attention. So now it's up to us how we can turn it around tonight.”

Morning shootout: “I flushed it down the toilet”

Sunday is a new day and Game 4 is a new game, so Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said he missed Game 3's lopsided 107-90 loss and a late-game collision with Denver's three-time MVP Nikola Jokic Didn't look back. In play.

He emerged from that confrontation with only a technical foul, upset Jokic was not called for a foul for a slanted screen near the three-point line. Alexander-Walker's teammate Kyle Anderson also received a technical for arguing.

Down on the court, Alexander-Walker rolled to fans sitting at courtside, where he remained in pain for a short period of time. He eventually walked off the court and into the tunnel with less than six minutes left and his team trailing by nearly 20 points.

“Honestly, I flushed it down the toilet,” Walker-Alexander said of both the game and the game in Sunday's Game 4 shootaround. “I didn't pay attention to it [Jokic’s screen again] again. We knew what it was. We addressed it together. What do we need to do to become better? We didn't want to focus on emotions or whatever the case may be. Pay attention.”

Alexander-Walker was not listed on the Wolves' injury report for Game 4.

“I feel good,” he said Sunday morning.

Wolves veteran point guard Mike Conley was asked Sunday morning how much incidents and emotions like this affect his next game or playoff game.

“For some people,” Conley said. “I know about nickel, maybe that happens. Maybe he got on some screens tonight on purpose. You never know. It's a physical game. We know that. We all got those screens. Gets those screens. We give those screens to guys I know will be just as ready to play as the rest of us.”

The Wolves lost consecutive games only four times in the regular season and never lost three in a row. They are 10-0 despite double-digit losses, including the playoff opener in Phoenix. They were 6-0 in the playoffs until Friday's loss. They have a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series.

“I hope they got the same reaction last game,” Conley said. “Come out with a sense of urgency, a little bit of anger, emotion, all that stuff that goes into it. Guys don't like to lose, especially at home the way we did. It was an embarrassing way to go out, But guys, you'll be ready to go.”


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