The Nuggets Took Down The Wolves In Game 5 Behind A Nikola Jokic Masterpiece

The Denver Nuggets were in a bad place after the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinals, as the team lost both home tilts to the Minnesota Timberwolves and looked like a shell of the team that lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy. Fast-forward to the end of Game 5 and you’d be shocked to learn that anyone was able to beat a team with Nikola Jokic on it, as the NBA MVP played one of the best games of his career en route to a 112-97 Denver win that moves them one win away from a series victory.

Neither team was able to really impose itself on the other over the course of the first quarter. While the Wolves had an early 6-point lead, Denver was able to piece together a quick, 10-3 run to go ahead. They’d never relinquish that lead over the remainder of the period, but a balanced effort by Minnesota’s offense kept the home team from ever opening up an emphatic lead, even though they went into the second ahead, 28-26, behind a big first quarter from Jokic, who had 12 points and four assists over the opening 12 minutes.

Jokic continued his heavy lifting during the second quarter, as he was ruthlessly efficient from the field despite battling with Rudy Gobert. And yet despite the MVP’s individual brilliance, Denver just couldn’t open up a sizeable lead on Minnesota. While Jokic had 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, the rest of his teammates combined to shoot 45.2 percent from the field against the feisty Wolves defense, and as a result, the home team was unable to ever get its lead beyond seven points.

Still, Minnesota’s offense wasn’t much better — Karl-Anthony Towns and Nickeil Alexander-Walker each had 11 points, while Anthony Edwards on had five points on 1-for-8 shooting — and as a result, the defending champs found themselves up 50-44 at the break.

The Wolves came out of the break at halftime on fire. The team raced out to an 11-3 lead to start the third quarter, which gave them an early lead and helped to quiet the opposing crowd. And then, the Nuggets showed off the championship DNA that they possess by immediately coming back with a run of their own — this time, it was an 11-2 stretch that erased everything Minnesota did at the start of the third.

Jokic continued to dominate in the third, whether he was showing off his passing chops or putting Gobert in the blender. It was one of the most emphatic quarters we’ve seen Jokic play, which is a high bar for the future Hall of Fame inductee. He took it to Gobert over and over again, scoring 16 points in the third as Denver took a 14-point lead into the game’s final frame.

With Jokic on the bench to start the fourth, Minnesota started to chip away, as the lead got down to 10 before Michael Malone called a timeout. During that stoppage in play, Jokic got put back in, and right away, the Nuggets ripped off eight straight points.

Down the stretch, any time that the Wolves started to put even a little pressure on the Nuggets, the champs would be able to find an answer and prevent them from cutting the lead to single-digits. This included Jokic, once again, doing something silly with Gobert on him.

There was just nothing that Minnesota could do about him on the night, as Jokic ended the evening with 40 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, two steals, a block, and zero turnovers in 41 minutes of work. While others can debate if it was his best postseason performance, it was unquestionably in the conversation, as the MVP spent the evening breaking the spirits of the best defense in the NBA.

Beyond Jokic, Aaron Gordon had 18 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, while both Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 16 points. Towns scored 23 to lead Minnesota, and while Edwards and Gobert both went for 18, the former had one of his worst games of the postseason (he shot 5-for-15 from the field), while the latter had nothing for the league MVP.

The series will now return to Minnesota, where the atmosphere will assuredly be different from the jubilant environment that greeted the Wolves earlier in the series. Game 6 will take place at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thursday night on ESPN.

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