Wolves vs. Nuggets score, highlights, takeaways: Nuggets rout Timberwolves in Game 3 to push series to 2-1

Well, we've got a series. The Denver Nuggets took Game 3 from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in convincing fashion, 117-90, to trim the Wolves' lead in this second-round series to 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday. 

For the Wolves, this is the first loss they have suffered this postseason (6-1). There were talks of a sweep happening here, but come on. This is the Nuggets we're talking about. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led the way with 48 combined points. Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 19. 

Below are three takeaways from Denver's Game 3 victory:

Murray finally heats up

Murray shot just 9-for-32, including 1-for-15 in the first halves, through Games 1 and 2. That is just not feasible for a Nuggets team desperate to loosen the pressure of Minnesota's unrelenting perimeter defense. In Game 3, Murray was aggressive from the start, and it led to the sorts of leveraged possessions that we're used to seeing from Denver's offense as Minnesota was scrambling around rather than settled in. 

Murray finished with 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting. He was just a step quicker than he's been. Decisive is the word I would use. Minnesota's perimeter defenders are a pack of wolves (I know, it's a lame word play, but it paints the right picture), and if you hesitate, the lineup will pounce. Murray stayed a step ahead all night, ready to pull up against the drop defenders or get downhill before higher hedges could force him into a corner. Pretty simply, he was just beating his man consistently. 

Jokic is the MVP, but in many ways, the Nuggets go as Murray goes. He didn't shoot well against the Lakers, but it was overshadowed by his two game-winners. He was terrible through the first two games of this series. Game 3 was the return of the playoff Jamal Murray we know, and if this gets him going for the remainder of the series, the Nuggets can absolutely buck the odds and recover from a 2-0 -- now 2-1 -- hole to advance. 

Joker in charge

After Jokic scored just 16 points on 13 shots in Game 2, it would've been so easy for him to come out over-aggressive to score in some unnecessary attempt to validate his third MVP in four seasons. You know, if you have watched enough of Jokic, that was never going to happen. 

It's just not his way. Instead, he simply controlled the game as only he can -- quarterbacking from the high post and in two-man actions. He found cutters and shooters and scored, for the most part, secondarily as Minnesota scrambled to thwart his passing options. And yet, he knew when he needed to attack, too. It's poetic how naturally he senses spacing and the moving parts within it. 

It led to a historic line: 24 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three rebounds and three blocks. Nobody else in history has matched the full breadth of that stat line in a playoff game. 

Ant held in check

All Anthony Edwards did through the first two games of this series was go for 70 points. He was held to 19 on Friday on 15 shots. The Wolves can struggle to score in general. When Edwards isn't cooking, it can be a real grind. 

Of course, holding Edwards down is easier said than done. It's not just about the way you defend him, which in some ways is irrelevant because he can score against any defender or defense; it's about the manner in which you're going about your own offense. 

This means quality shots and low turnovers, which keeps Edwards out of the open floor and forces him and the Wolves to create consistent quality looks in the half court. They probably cannot out-execute Denver in a half-court affair. Denver committed just 11 turnovers on Friday, and were even more clean with the ball in the time when this was an actual competitive game than that number indicates. 

Edwards has been incredible in this playoff run. But did we really think he was going to blow through Kevin Durant and Devin Booker and just keep right on going through Jokic and the defending champions? That wasn't realistic. So now, the Timberwolves have lost a game for the first time in these playoffs, and we get to see how they respond in what will be a massive Game 4 on Sunday. 

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Final Score: Nuggets 117, Timberwolves 90

  • Timberwolves leads series 2-1
  • Game 4: Sunday, 8 ET

Game 3 stats

  • Nikola Jokic: 24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks
  • Jamal Murray: 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting
  • Michael Porter Jr.: 21 points, 4 of 5 from 3
  • Anthony Edwards: 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 14 points, 4 of 5 from 3
May 11, 2024, 4:20 AM
May. 11, 2024, 12:20 am EDT
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This one's a wrap

I know we live in the age of no NBA lead being safe, but this one's over. Denver is up 32 halfway through the fourth quarter. We're going to have a 2-1 series. 

May 11, 2024, 3:59 AM
May. 10, 2024, 11:59 pm EDT
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Nuggets have opened it up

Denver is up 22 early in the third and it's all about comfort and gaining the leverage that comes with it. The Wolves had them sped up with their space closed off in the first two games, but tonight Denver, starting with an aggressive Jamal Murray, is winning that matchup to get the Wolves into rotation, and guys like Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter are knocking down the open shots as a result. 

May 11, 2024, 3:15 AM
May. 10, 2024, 11:15 pm EDT
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Halftime: Nuggets 56, Timberwolves 41 

  • Nikola Jokic: 7 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists 
  • Jamal Murray: 18 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
  • Anthony Edwards: 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds

Throw whatever you saw in Games 1-2 out the window, because these are the Nuggets that we're used to seeing. It's been all Denver so far in Game 3, and Minnesota simply has no answer heading into halftime. Jamal Murray has been simply spectacular, going 8-of-13 to lead all scorers. Of course, the defending champs would be nothing without Nikola Jokic, who is well on his way to a triple-double. Anthony Edwards, who has had a breakout postseason campaign, has been largely quiet with only a handful of points. If Minnesota wants to maintain control of the series and take a 3-0 lead, then it'll need to come out of the half firing away. Otherwise, the Nuggets are in prime position to make things interesting. 

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The most important Nuggets number

Two. That's the number of turnovers the Nuggets have so far. That's it. There's a lot of stuff going on in an NBA playoff game, but if you take care of the ball against a team like Minnesota, then you are putting yourself in a good position to win. Denver is doing just that and it's working in its favor.

May 11, 2024, 2:42 AM
May. 10, 2024, 10:42 pm EDT
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Ant trying to pressure Murray

Jamal Murray is 6-for-9 so far in the first half after going 1-for-15 in the first half of Games 1 and 2, and now Anthony Edwards is trying to disrupt his rhythm with full court pressure. The Wolves need a spark because their offense sputtering, to say the least. But a quick 5-0 run has them back within 13 halfway through the second quarter. 

May 11, 2024, 2:30 AM
May. 10, 2024, 10:30 pm EDT
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May 11, 2024, 2:25 AM
May. 10, 2024, 10:25 pm EDT
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Murray off to a good start

This goes without saying, but the Nuggets are an entirely different team when Jamal Murray is hunting offense and making shots. Minnesota's defense is still a beast, but an aggressive and effective Murray loosens it. And now Minnesota has to keep up offensively. Which is tough when Anthony Edwards isn't scoring big and Denver isn't turning the ball over to get Minnesota in transition. 

May 11, 2024, 2:20 AM
May. 10, 2024, 10:20 pm EDT
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End 1Q: Nuggets 28, Timberwolves 20

It's an eight-point lead for the defending NBA champions after the first quarter. Despite dropping the first two games of the series, Denver looks sharp, though only time will tell if it can steal Game 3 and make things interesting.