Murray has 40 points, Nuggets beat Timberwolves for 2-0 lead

By Arnie Stapleton

DENVER (AP) – Jamal Murray scored 40 points and Michael Porter Jr. had 13 of his 16 in the fourth quarter, powering the Denver Nuggets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113 on Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in the NBA playoff series.

Murray hadn’t ever produced even a 30-point playoff game at Ball Arena – his two 50-point postseason performances came in the NBA bubble in Florida in 2020.

“It’s nice,” Murray said. “It’s nice having a crowd. They got me going. That fires us up and gives us a lot of life even when we’re not playing our best.”

Murray got a hug from coach Michael Malone as he went out with 11 seconds left to a rousing ovation.

“I was exhausted,” Murray said.

Nikola Jokic added 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Nuggets, who blew an early 21-point lead and trailed 89-87 heading into the fourth quarter.

Anthony Edwards had 41 points for the Wolves, who shot a sizzling 81% in the third quarter to erase a 64-59 halftime deficit.

Minnesota had shot just 39% in the first half, just slightly better than it did in a 29-point loss in the series opener Sunday night.

“We knew at some point we’d see the aggressive, attacking Timberwolves,” Malone said. “In that third quarter we saw it and they played great and we didn’t defend in the third quarter, but I was proud of how we responded in that fourth quarter.”

The series shifts to Minneapolis for Game 3 on Friday night

The Nuggets recovered during a thrilling fourth quarter that began with Porter scoring eight straight points – on a four-point play, a reverse layup and two free throws – but the Nuggets couldn’t shake the energized Wolves, who clawed back and went ahead 99-98 on an Edwards’ jumper.

Porter replied with a 3-pointer that restored Denver’s lead for good.

Rudy Gobert scored 19 points but was whistled for a technical foul while arguing his fifth foul, a shove in Jokic’s back. It was teammate Kyle Anderson – whom Gobert punched in the Timberwolves’ final regular-season game – who calmed down Gobert.

Murray led the counterpunch to Minnesota’s big third-quarter run, something he couldn’t do the last two postseasons as he recovered from a torn left ACL.

“That was tough,” Murray said, “just sitting down watching.”

And only dreaming of nights like this.

This is the first time the Nuggets have taken a 2-0 lead in a series under Malone.

“What we have to do is not be satisfied,” Malone said. “If you’re going to be a great team, you’ve got to be selfish. Be selfish … man. Let’s go up and get Game 3. Let’s not be complacent.

“That was my biggest concern coming into tonight and it will be an even bigger concern going into Game 3. We know it’s going to be a crazy environment there. Their fans have been asking for Denver. Well, here we come.”

Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns scored 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. In the series, he has scored 21 points on 8-for-27 shooting. Edwards made 6 of 10 3-pointers, same as Murray.

Nuggets: Denver outscored Minnesota 19-3 on fast breaks in the first half but finished with just a 19-16 advantage. … Murray scored a quick 14 points as the Nuggets hit 10 of their first 15 shots in the first quarter.