‘I just laugh’: Opponents in awe as Jokic stars in Nuggets’ win over Timberwolves

<img class="caas-img has-preview" alt="Nikola Jokic sees off the attentions of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/2Q79gBPIsGvz8Ogg9JpfTg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/98940669d042293eed04869403865cc7″ data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/2Q79gBPIsGvz8Ogg9JpfTg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/98940669d042293eed04869403865cc7″>

Nikola Jokic received his NBA MVP award before Tuesday night’s playoff game between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves and soon showed why he was voted the best player in the league for a third time.

Jokic scored 40 points and dished out 13 assists and the Nuggets shut down Anthony Edwards in a 112-97 win over the Timberwolves that put the reigning NBA champs one win away from the Western Conference finals.

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The Serb was close to unstoppable in his home arena. Even the reigning NBA defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert, was unable to contain him: Jokic was 8-9 on shots when Gobert was the primary defender.

When Towns went to the bench with his third foul late in the first half, Gobert pointed at teammate Kyle Anderson, instructing him to guard Jokic. TNT announcer Reggie Miller was aghast at Gobert, saying, “You’re the Defensive Player of the Year! You guard the MVP!”

Edwards said he could do little but step back and admire his fellow All-Star after watching him go off for 16 points and assist on four other baskets in the third quarter.

“I just laugh. That’s all I can do,” Edwards said. “I can’t be mad. He’s good, man. I think I said that after Game 1 when we won, and Game 2, he’s the MVP. He’s the best player in NBA. He showed it the last three games, three games in a row. He was special tonight. I’ve got to give him his flowers. He was that guy tonight.”

Jokic, who is not known for his explosive skills, now has two impressive dunks in transition in his last two games. He joked about the new angle to his game.

“You know, I’m a freak of nature. Why not show off my athleticism?” he said in the postgame press conference.

Aaron Gordon added 18 points and 10 boards, and Jamal Murray scored 16 for the Nuggets. Murray said Jokic’s skills make his job easier.

“If Jokic’s scoring like that, there’s no need to do anything special,” Murray said.

Trapped and doubled all night, Edwards was held to 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Karl Anthony-Towns led the Wolves with 23 points and Gobert scored 18.

“I think we did a great job, not just on [Edwards] but everybody,” Murray said.

In his pre-game comments, Wolves coach Chris Finch also expressed dismay at the NBA fining Gobert $75,000 for making a money gesture following a call by referee Scott Foster in Game 4. That was $25,000 less than Murray was fined for his actions in Game 2, when he, too, made the money sign and threw both a towel and a heat pack toward an official.

With their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Wolves will have to snap their skid on Thursday night at Target Center to force a Game 7 back in Denver.

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