May 20, 2024

Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knick

Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knick

The Minnesota Timberwolves erased a 20-point deficit to stun Denver 98-90, knocking the defending NBA champions out of the playoffs Sunday as Indiana ousted the New York Knicks.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Jaden McDaniels added 23 points and Anthony Edwards hit his stride late as the Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a game seven.

The Pacers connected on an NBA playoff record 67.1 percent of their shots — making 53 of their 79 attempts from the floor — in a 130-109 game seven triumph over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Edwards, who has emerged as a star for the Timberwolves at 22, said poise was the key to Minnesota’s latest unlikely victory over three-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Down by 15 at halftime, Minnesota trailed by 20 early in the third. But Denver went cold as Edwards found his range and the Timberwolves cut the deficit to one point going into the fourth quarter.

Edwards, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, said coach Chris Finch told him at the break to “play quicker.”

“If they’re going to continue to trap you, you got to make the right play and trust your teammates,” Edwards said. “We was just poised throughout the entire game. We just fought, fought.

“And KAT played spectacular tonight,” Edwards added of Towns. “He carried us tonight.”

Minnesota had pulled within one point going into the fourth quarter and took the lead for good on Rudy Gobert’s driving layup in the first minute of the final period.

Jokic scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. He added 19 rebounds and seven assists and Jamal Murray scored 35 points but both said the Nuggets just missed too many shots.

“I felt like we got the shots we wanted and the opportunities were there,” Murray said.

The Timberwolves, who had rocked the Nuggets with two wins in Denver to open the series before dropping three straight games, closed it out with a blowout game six win and their final comeback triumph.

“It’s a special moment,” Finch said. “This is a hell of a team with the best player on the planet. The series was wild, and this game was just a microcosm of the series.”

Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals while the Pacers booked an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard added 20 apiece as six Pacers players scored in double figures.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine three-pointers on the way to 39 points for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson scored 17 and handed out nine assists before departing with a broken left hand at the start of the fourth quarter — a final injury blow for the ravaged Knicks.

The Pacers broke through for their first road win of the series with a breathtaking offensive display in the first half, when they made 29 of their 38 shots for a 76.3 shooting percentage.

The Knicks cut a 15-point halftime deficit to six early in the third, but the Pacers had all the answers.

“Just a great game overall, top to bottom for us,” Haliburton said. “We hadn’t won on the road all series — we just found a way.”

The Knicks, chasing a first Eastern Conference finals berth since 2000, hurt their own cause with two costly turnovers on inbounds plays and the Pacers quickly pushed the lead back to 19 points.

The Knicks had hoped for a boost from forward OG Anunoby, who returned to the starting lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury.

But Anunoby was clearly limited and departed in the first quarter as hurting teammate Josh Hart soldiered on despite an abdominal strain.

“Guys gave everything they had, and that’s all you could ask,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who was without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic for the playoffs.

“It was a battle all year and there was nothing left to give at the end.”