NBA Playoffs: Nuggets stun Timberwolves with Jamal Murray's layup; Tie series, regain home-court advantage

The champions are back. MVP is also like this.

With hot shooting and a commanding lead late in the second quarter, the Denver Nuggets held on for a 115-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. After losing the first two games at home, Denver has now tied the series 2–2 and regained home court advantage in the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Nuggets took control Sunday with a 12-0 run late in the first quarter, which ended with Denver leading 29-24. A 12-2 run early in the second extended the lead to 41-26 before Anthony Edwards put the Timberwolves back within 56-49.

Then the Nuggets surprised Target Center.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope matched Anthony Edwards' 3-pointer with a pointer of his own with 20 seconds left in the half. Aaron Gordon then set up a Michael Porter Jr. fast-break dunk by setting up a Michael Porter Jr. fast-break dunk with 1.6 seconds left in the half, seemingly capping a 5–0 Nuggets run to end the quarter. But Denver's work wasn't done.

Jamal Murray stole Nickell Alexander-Walker's errant inbounds pass from the right sideline and launched the ball from 55 feet as the clock ticked down. It went into the net as the buzzer sounded to cap an 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds of the half and increase Denver's lead to 64-49.

Denver's 16-point lead was cut to seven and then increased to 15 again in the blink of an eye. Edwards continued to lead the Timberwolves' fightback after halftime. But Minnesota never recovered.

Minnesota cut its deficit to 113–107 in the final minutes. But the Nuggets held a double-digit lead for most of the second half and sent the series back to Denver for a decisive Game 5 at home. They have regained their dominance after trailing and losing to the Timberwolves in the first two games of the series.

Jamal Murray hit another big playoff shot on Sunday to help lead the Nuggets to victory.  (David Birding/Getty Images)Jamal Murray hit another big playoff shot on Sunday to help lead the Nuggets to victory.  (David Birding/Getty Images)

Jamal Murray hit another big playoff shot on Sunday to help lead the Nuggets to victory. (David Birding/Getty Images)

Like their Game 3 win on Friday, the Nuggets won the game with hot shooting from the field and beyond the 3-point arc. Murray, Gordon and Nikola Jokic took turns playing key roles to counter Anthony Edwards' 44-point effort.

The Nuggets shot 57% from the field and 13 of 29 (44.8%) from 3-point distance on a strong shooting night from nearly the entire eight-man rotation. Four days after winning his third MVP with the Nuggets down 2–0 in the series, Jokic led the Nuggets effort with 35 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and one block. He made 15 of 26 shots from the field and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Gordon was on the heater throughout the entire game. He hit his first 10 shots en route to 11 of 12 attempts from the floor, leading to 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal.

Murray finished with 19 points, eight assists and five rebounds, while shooting 8 of 17 from the field and 3 of 7 from beyond the arc. He appears to have recovered from the calf injury that plagued him in the first two games of the series and was fined $100,000 after throwing several objects on the court during a blowout Game 2 loss at home Was.

Denver's bench also arrived. Justin Holiday, Christian Braun and Reggie Jackson combined to score 27 points while shooting 8 of 14 from the field and 6 of 9 from 3-point distance. Braun and Holiday scored to give Denver the lead early in the second quarter, increasing their lead to 42–28.

The Nuggets did all this against the league's best regular season defense, which swept them in the first two games of the series. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves' offense couldn't keep up.

Edwards, as he has throughout the playoffs, drove the Minnesota attack. He scored nine of Minnesota's first 15 points and the Timberwolves took a 15–9 lead. He kept the pressure on throughout the game, shooting 16 of 25 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3 on a 44-point, five-rebound, five-assist effort.

He didn't get enough help from his supporting cast as Minnesota's defense took a step back for the second consecutive game.

Karl-Anthony Towns shot a career-worst 1 of 10 in the first half. He finished the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 5 of 18 from the field and 1 of 4 from long range. Jaden McDaniels had 11 points and two rebounds while attempting only eight shots from the field. Rudy Gobert posted 11 points and 14 rebounds, but Minnesota's front line struggled to contain Jokic as it did in the first two games of the series. Gordon had no answer to this.

Minnesota shot well (47.6% from the field, 39.3% from 3%), but it wasn't enough against a Nuggets team that solved its defense for the second consecutive game.

Only five teams in NBA history have attempted to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games at home. Denver rallies to turn this series into a best-of-three as it attempts to become a sixth.

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