Timberwolves vs. Nuggets score, highlights: Minnesota eliminates reigning champs with historic Game 7 comeback

The Minnesota Timberwolves stormed back for a stunning 98-90 victory that eliminated the reigning champion Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their second-round NBA playoff series on Sunday night. The Wolves went on a 54-24 run in the second half that erased a 20-point deficit and advanced Minnesota to the Western Conference finals. They'll face the Mavericks next round while the Nuggets head home. 

Minnesota was helped by clutch fourth quarter performances from Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards and 2024 Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid. They were able to fend off what was a brilliant 34-point, 19-rebound performance from Nikola Jokic as well as a monster 35 point effort from Jamal Murray.

Here are three key takeaways from Game 7:

Timberwolves pull off historic comeback

Throughout the first half and into the third quarter, the Timberwolves' offense was non-existent. Time and again, graphics would flash onto the screen saying that they hadn't scored in five minutes or hadn't made a field goal for three minutes. As the clock ticked under 10 minutes in the third quarter, they still hadn't reached 40 points. 

When the Nuggets pushed their lead up to 20 points, it seemed inconceivable that the Timberwolves would win the game. Over the rest of the third quarter, however, they slowly but surely kept chipping away with strong defense, transition buckets and timely 3-pointers. Heading into the fourth, it was just a one point game. 

The momentum fully flipped in their favor a few minutes into the final frame when Rudy Gobert threw up a turnaround fadeaway at the end of the shot clock and caught nothing but net. Once shots like that start going in, it just might be your night. 

Indeed, it was the Timberwolves' night, as they pulled away down the stretch to complete the biggest Game 7 comeback in NBA history. 

Towns comes through in the biggest game of his career

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most talented big men of his era, but his career to this point has been full of disappointment and frustration. Though he has often been let down by the organization, he's had plenty of individual miscues. 

Game 7 on Sunday was, by far, the biggest game he's ever played. To his credit, he showed up in a major way to get the Wolves to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 20 years, and their second time overall. The only other power forward who has ever done that in Minnesota is Kevin Garnett. That's not to compare the two, but it goes to show the nature of the accomplishment. 

Early on, Towns was one of the few Wolves who had his shot going, and his 13 first half points turned out to be extremely important. He added eight in the third-quarter turnaround, and while he only scored one basket in the fourth quarter due to foul trouble, it was a putback slam that essentially sealed the game. 

All told, Towns finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on 8-of-14 from the field. 

Another champion exits early

The Nuggets only lost four games in the entire playoffs last season as they cruised to the first title in franchise history. While they were one of the frontrunners to lift the trophy again this time around, it was clear immediately that it would not be as easy. 

They beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the first round, but trailed by double digits in four of those games and needed two buzzer beaters from Jamal Murray. Then, they lost the first two games at home to the Timberwolves in the second round, and had 26-point and 45-point losses in the series. 

Between better competition, a worse supporting cast and a combination of fatigue and injuries, these weren't the same Nuggets as last year. Even if they had survived this series, there were real concerns moving forward. In the end, they did not, and are now the fifth defending champion in a row to be eliminated before the conference finals. 

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FINAL: Timberwolves 98 -- Nuggets 90

The Minnesota Timberwolves have advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2004, and just the second time in franchise history, by eliminating the defending champion Denver Nuggets on the road in Game 7. In the process, they pulled off the biggest comeback in Game 7 history -- 20 points. 

Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Wolves with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and threw down a putback slam i the closing minute for an exclamation point on the win. Anthony Edwards, meanwhile, got off to a terrible start, but bounced back in the second half to finish with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

The Timberwolves' offense was non-existent in the first half, and they trailed by 15 at halftime. That deficit grew to 20 points early in the third quarter, and it seemed all but over. Instead, the Timberwolves turned the game around in the third and cut the deficit to one. Late in the fourth, they went on a surge to put the game away. 

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Edwards puts the Timberwolves up 10

All of a sudden the Timberwolves have pushed their lead up to double digits after Naz Reid threw down a tip dunk and Anthony Edwards hit a 3-pointer in transition. They are now just three minutes away from advancing to the Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history. 

 
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Gobert gets the circus shot to go

Rudy Gobert is not much of an offensive threat, especially outside of the paint, but he had the ball at the end of the shot clock and had to throw up a prayer that caught nothing but net. All the momentum is on Minnesota's side now.

 
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Third quarter: Nuggets 67 -- Timberwolves 66

It was the Nuggets' turn to go ice cold in the third quarter, and they shot 5-of-19 as their lead was whittled down to one heading into the fourth quarter. Anthony Edwards, who had a brutal first half, started to heat up and scored nine points in the frame, and the Wolves finally hit a few 3s. This is anyone's game now. 

 
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Timberwolves hanging around

The Wolves have trailed by as much as 20 tonight, but they've cut the deficit down to 12 points here in the middle of the third quarter. It's hard to have much confidence in them turning this around given how bad the offense has looked for much of the night, but they've at least given themselves a chance. 

 
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Halftime: Nuggets 53 -- Timberwolves 38

The second quarter was all Nuggets, as they built a double-digit lead heading into the break. Jamal Murray has led the way in the scoring department with a game-high 24 points, while Nikola Jokic is doing a little bit of everything to the tune of 13 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. The Nuggets' defense has also shown up, and is holding the Timberwolves to 31.6% shooting. 

 
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Gobert's free throws end a five-minute scoring drought

The Timberwolves took the low-scoring approach to an extreme at the end of the first quarter and start of the second by not scoring for just over five minutes of game time. Rudy Gobert finally hit a few free throws to end the drought and snap a 16-0 run for the Nuggets. There's plenty of time, but they have a long road back now. 

 
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First quarter: Nuggets 24 -- Timberwolves 19

The Timberwolves jumped ahead early, but the Nuggets closed on a 12-4 run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter. As is usually the case in Game 7s, this has been a low-scoring affair. Jamal Murray has 13 points to lead all scorers, while Karl-Anthony Towns has six points to pace the Timberwolves. 

 
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McDaniels' block highlights defensive start

Both teams are locked in on the defensive end, and nothing showed that better than Jaden McDaniels' incredible block on Aaron Gordon. At the first timeout, the two teams are a combined 6-of-24 from the field, and neither has reached double figures. 

 
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Updated NBA playoff bracket

Just five teams remain in the 2024 NBA playoffs. We started with 20 postseason teams. We'll be down to four in a few hours. Who will advance to face the Mavericks?

pacers-ecf-bracket.png
Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

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