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Nuggets dominate Timberwolves in Game 3, Jokić Shines: NBA playoff recap

Denver Nuggets, defending NBA champions, showed their resilience and championship talent in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. After suffering disappointing losses in the first two games at Ball Arena in Denver, the Nuggets knew they needed to make a statement on the road to avoid a potentially insurmountable 3-0 series deficit.

And make a statement that they did. The Nuggets fired on all cylinders at the Target Center in Minneapolis, stunning the sold-out crowd with a dominant performance from start to finish. When the final buzzer sounded, Denver secured a commanding 117-90 victory, handing the Timberwolves their first loss of the postseason and getting them back in the series.

Nuggets Weather Early Storm, take control in the second quarter

The start of Game 3 was reminiscent of the first two games, with both teams trading blows in a tense first quarter. But the Nuggets started to come into their own as the period wore on, closing with a 12-4 run to take an eight-point lead into the second quarter. That first-quarter surge gave Denver its largest lead in the series to that point, a sign of things to come.

In the second quarter, the Nuggets really opened up the game. They came out of the gates on fire, opening the period with a massive 17-5 run that pushed their lead to 20 points. The three-point barrage was the catalyst for that run, with the Nuggets’ shooters finding their groove from beyond the arc.

Denver’s defense also stepped up in the second quarter, suffocating the Timberwolves offense and holding them to just 21 points in the period. That defensive effort, combined with hot shooting, allowed the Nuggets to take a comfortable 15-point lead into the halftime break.

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Jamal Murraywho struggled mightily in Game 2 and was subsequently fined $100,000 by the NBA for throwing objects onto the court in frustration, bounced back in style in the first half of Game 3. The star guard poured in 18 of his 24 points before the break, setting the tone for the Nuggets’ offensive explosion.

For the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns was the only bright spot in the first half. The All-Star center knocked down four 3-pointers and scored in double figures, but got little help from his teammates as the Nuggets built a sizable lead.

The Nuggets put the game out of reach in the third quarter

If there was any doubt about the outcome of Game 3 at halftime, the Nuggets quickly erased it in the third quarter. Denver came out of the locker room with the same intensity and hot shooting they displayed in the first half and promptly put the game out of reach.

The Nuggets’ three-point barrage continued, led by Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. Gordon hit a 3-pointer, followed by a 3-pointer by Porter Jr., all in the span of about a minute. That quick 9-0 run pushed Denver’s lead over 20 points and it was time.

By the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets had extended their lead to a staggering 27 points. They continued to pour on in the fourth quarter, holding onto their lead and cruising to an impressive 27-point victory.

Nikola Jokić, the two-time reigning NBA MVP, led Denver with another commanding performance. Jokić finished just short of a triple-double, recording 24 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists in a dominant all-around effort. Murray added 24 points of his own to go along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds, rebounding from his Game 2 struggles in a major way.

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Porter Jr. he also had a strong lead on the Nuggets, pouring in 21 points and hitting several key 3-pointers. As a team, Denver shot 54% from the field and an even more impressive 49% from 3-point range, a far cry from their shooting woes in the first two games of the series.

It was a night to forget for the Timberwolves. Anthony Edwards led the team in scoring with 19 points on 8-15 shooting, but he didn’t get much help from his supports. Towns finished with 14 points after his hot start and Mike Conley had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. But Minnesota’s offense struggled mightily overall, shooting just 33% (9-27) from beyond the arc.

Frustration erupted in the final minutes of the Timberwolves loss. Guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker was ejected for arguing with officials, a fitting end to a disappointing night for Minnesota.

Pivotal Game 4 Looms on Sunday

While the Timberwolves still hold a 2-1 series lead after their dominant performances in Games 1 and 2, the pressure has now shifted squarely on their shoulders heading into Sunday’s pivotal Game 4. Minnesota is seeking its first Western Conference Finals appearance in 20 years, and they know they missed a golden opportunity to clinch the series in front of their home crowd on Friday night.

Now the Timberwolves have a must-win situation in Game 4. If they lose and allow the series to be tied 2-2 heading back to Denver for Game 5, he would win anyone’s series. The Nuggets, with their championship pedigree and MVP in Jokić, would have all the momentum.

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The key for Minnesota will be to put the disappointing Game 3 loss behind them and focus on Sunday. They need better performances from their star players, especially Towns and Edwards, and they need to find a way to slow down Jokic and Murray. If they can defend home court and take a 3-1 series lead, they will be in prime position to pull off an upset and dethrone the defending champions.

Game 4 between the Nuggets and Timberwolves tips off Sunday night at 9:30 PM ET at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The game will be televised nationally on TNT. With so much at stake, it promises to be a fascinating and hard-fought battle as these two teams continue their quest for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.

Information is taken from yahoo and AOL.

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