Nuggets vs. Timberwolves score: Dominant Nikola Jokic, near-perfect Aaron Gordon lift Denver to Game 4 win

After losing the first two games of the series at home, the defending champion Denver Nuggets have evened their Western Conference semifinal matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves with Sunday's 115-107 Game 4 victory. The Nuggets fought off a hot start from Minnesota to take a lead toward the end of the first quarter that they would never relinquish. A pivotal Game 5 is set for Tuesday back in Denver.

Three-time MVP Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets, scoring 16 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter to go with seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Denver forward Aaron Gordon turned in one of the best games of his career, putting up 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists on near-perfect 11-for-12 shooting. The Nuggets' biggest dagger may have come just before halftime, when they put up an 8-0 run in 20 seconds, capped by Jamal Murray's steal and halfcourt buzzer-beater.

Wolves star Anthony Edwards vowed to improve upon his Game 3 performance, and he sure did, putting up 44 points on 16-for-25 shooting. He didn't get much help on the offensive end, however, as Mike Conley was the team's next-highest scorer at 15 points.

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday's Game 4.

The champs are here

Oh, you didn't think the Nuggets would just lie down, did you?


Whatever went wrong in the first two games of this series appears to have been rectified, as the defending champs have exerted their will upon the Timberwolves, who suddenly look stunned and timid. The Nuggets have clearly locked in on defense, with Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope using their physicality, quickness and craftiness to bother pretty much every player on the floor. Edwards had 44 points, but much of it was due to spectacular offense rather than continual defensive lapses by Denver.

Offensively, it's a tale as old as time -- though this one involves two beasts. Jokic was brilliant in the first and fourth quarters, while Murray rode the momentum from his buzzer-beater just before halftime into a scorching start to the third quarter. Then in crunch time, the unflappable duo spammed the pick-and-roll that they've been perfecting for nearly a decade, leading to great shot after great shot to put the Wolves away.

You hate to use the phrase, "woke a sleeping giant," because the Nuggets had no choice but to wake up. It certainly seems, however, that the Nuggets have seized back momentum along with home-court advantage as the series shifts to Game 5.

Gordon (almost) perfect

While Aaron Gordon may be known for dropping diss tracks on Slam Dunk Contest judges who refuse to give him a perfect score, he certainly didn't need to worry about perfection on Sunday. The dynamic 6-foot-8 forward made his first 10 shots, collecting his only miss with under four minutes left in the game.


And it wasn't all dunks -- though he had his fair share of those. Gordon also went 2-for-2 from 3-point range, as he's knocked down 8 of his last 11 attempts from beyond the arc. When he's making 3s, the Nuggets offense is basically unstoppable, particularly with the way that the Wolves are playing him. Rudy Gobert generally sags off of Gordon to provide help, and has no interest in guarding him on the perimeter. So, when Gordon hits those shots, it's devastating for Minnesota.

You can't expect Gordon to continue to hit 3s at this clip, but the confidence he's displaying bodes well for Denver in the rest of this series. If he can provide 20-plus points in addition to his incredible defense and vertical spacing, the Nuggets will be in good shape.

Troublesome Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns is so talented offensively that his bad games are few and far between. But when he's bad, he's really bad, and unfortunately for Minnesota that was the case on Sunday. The 7-footer went 1-for-10 from the field in the first half and finished at 5-of 18-for the game, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range. He ended with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, which just isn't good enough from the man that even Edwards calls the team's best offensive player.

It wasn't just that Towns was missing -- everyone has off nights -- but he took some simply horrendous shots in what looked like an effort to force himself back on track. Take, for example, this attempt from the second quarter as the Timberwolves were in the process of trimming down Denver's sizeable lead. Towns catches the ball in a disadvantageous position, gets into his shooting motion before he even looks at the basket, then forces up a long 2-point jumper with 15 seconds on the shot clock.

These are the types of shots that drive you crazy with Towns, and the ones that have prevented him from reaching the superstar level. He'd been awesome in the first three games of the series, averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists on 63/64/80 shooting splits, so this is likely an ugly anomaly. But on Sunday, with Edwards doing all he could, Minnesota just needed more from their second All-Star.

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FINAL: Nuggets 115, Timberwolves 107

(Series tied, 2-2)

The defending champion Denver Nuggets have successfully crawled out of an 0-2 hole, beating the Timberwolves on their home floor for the second straight game to even their Western Conference semifinal matchup at two games apiece. The Nuggets were led by, who else, Nikola Jokic, who bounced back from foul trouble to dominate the fourth quarter in every facet. He received plenty of help from Jamal Murray and uber-athlete Aaron Gordon as Minnesota simply could not get crucial stops.

The Wolves wasted another outstanding performance from Anthony Edwards, who came out on fire and sustained his greatness throughout the game en route to 44 points. The rest of the Minnesota roster didn't hold up their end of the bargain, however, as no other player scored more than 13 points.

The series now shifts back to Denver for a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday.

Notable stats:

  • Nikola Jokic: 35 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast
  • Anthony Edwards: 44 pts, 5 ast, 5 reb
  • Jamal Murray: 19 pts, 8 ast, 5 reb
  • Aaron Gordon: 27 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, 11-12 FG
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 13 pt, 12 reb, 5-18 FG
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One last push from Minnesota?

Every time the Wolves threaten to cut into the lead, the Nuggets push right back with a big shot -- the latest was a 3-pointer from Christian Braun. Anthony Edwards just checked out of the game, but his rest will likely be short as Minnesota is running out of time in their bid to take a commanding 3-1 lead back to Denver.

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End of 3rd quarter - Nuggets 90, Timberwolves 79

It looked for a while as if the Nuggets were beginning to pull away, but the Wolves came back strong behind Anthony Edwards, who had 14 of his 37 points in the third quarter. Nikola Jokic picked up his fourth foul midway through the period, sending him to the bench, but Denver was able to maintain a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter. You have to imagine that Jokic will play the whole final frame if he's able to avoid picking up any more fouls.

Oh yeah, also, this happened:

Notable stats:

  • Nikola Jokic: 19 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 4 fouls
  • Anthony Edwards: 37 pts,4 ast, 4 reb
  • Jamal Murray: 19 pts, 6 ast
  • Aaron Gordon: 23 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast, 9-9 FG
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 11 pt, 9 reb, 4-16 FG
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Gordon skies for the putback

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Four fouls on Jokic

In a quick development, Nikola Jokic picked up two touch fouls to bring his tally to four for the game. He stayed in the fame for a couple possessions, but is now on the bench. Aaron Gordon will shift to center and will be tasked with extra playmaking alongside Jamal Murray.

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Halftime - Nuggets 64, Timberwolves 49

What an incredibly wild finish to the first half for the Denver Nuggets. Just as it seemed as if the Wolves were regaining momentum, Denver went on an 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds of the second quarter, capped by a steal and halfcourt buzzer-beater from Jamal Murray.

Absolutely devastating for Minnesota and its stunned crowd.

Notable stats:

  • Nikola Jokic: 19 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 3 st
  • Anthony Edwards: 23 pts, 9-12 FG
  • Jamal Murray: 7 pts, 6 ast
  • Aaron Gordon: 14 pts, 3 reb, 2 blk, 6-6 FG
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 3 pt, 7 reb, 1-10 FG
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Nuggets rolling

Well, let's hope you didn't blink to start the second quarter. The Nuggets have increased their run to 26-4 and have taken a 15-point lead. They have absolutely locked down defensively while spreading out the Wolves on the other end with hot shooting from Justin Holiday and relentless pressure on the rim from Aaron Gordon and Christian Braun. All this and Jamal Murray hasn't even gotten going yet. It's officially worry time for Minnesota.

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End of 1st quarter - Nuggets 29, Timberwolves 24

Denver quelled a hot start by Anthony Edwards to finish the first quarter on a 14-2 run, quieting the Target Center crowd. With Jamal Murray in foul trouble, Nikola Jokic looked for his own shot and finished with 11 first-quarter points. The Wolves have been frustrated with the physicality of the Nuggets' defense, and we'll have to see if they regain their composure moving forward.

Notable stats:

  • Nikola Jokic: 11 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast
  • Anthony Edwards: 11 pts, 4-6 FG
  • Jamal Murray: 2 pts, 3 ast, 2 fouls
  • Aaron Gordon: 8 pts, 2 reb, 1 blk
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 1 pt, 3 reb, 0-7 FG
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Two fouls on Edwards, Murray

Jamal Murray went to the bench midway through the first quarter after picking up his second foul. That's a huge development, as now Reggie Jackson will take over, posing much less of an offensive threat. Look for Nikola Jokic to pick up his offensive aggressiveness. On the other side, Anthony Edwards also has two fouls -- particularly rough for the Wolves given his hot start. If he's forced to miss extended minutes, Karl-Anthony Towns will need to be the one to pick up the slack.

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Ant not messing around

Anthony Edwards put the Game 3 loss on his own shoulders, and he seems determined not to let that happen again tonight. He's come out on fire, 4 for 4 from the floor en route to nine points -- equaling the output of the entire Nuggets team. Edwards has met little resistance on his jumpers and at the rim, finishing with his usual brand of skill and athleticism.