Jokic guides Nuggets to 3-2 series edge on Wolves

Nikola Jokic celebrated his third MVP trophy ceremony by scoring 40 points and handing out 13 assists as the host Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97 on Tuesday in Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal series.

Aaron Gordon logged 18 points and 10 rebounds while Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points apiece for Denver, which leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 after dropping the first two at home.

“He had 40, he missed seven shots on the Defensive Player of the Year and it felt like he had 50,” Murray said of Jokic. “Whenever he gets it going like that you let him dictate how the game’s going to go.

“When he gets it going and he’s doing that stupid one-legged, one-armed, behind-the-back move, I’m just going back on defense. Getting the trophy tonight probably motivated him a little bit, being at home. It was a lot of fun and the place was rocking. He had it going so the game plan was give him the ball and he’ll figure it out.”

Game 6 is tonight in Minneapolis.

Minnesota All-Star guard Anthony Edwards struggled from the field, finishing 5-for-15 and scoring 18 points. He added nine assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and Rudy Gobert amassed 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without point guard Mike Conley (right Achilles soreness). Nickeil Alexander-Walker moved into the starting lineup and scored 14 points.

“We’re hopeful Mike can go in Game 6,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “It comes down to Game 6 at home and that’s where we want to be.”

Jokic received his MVP trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver before tip-off, then scored 12 points in the first quarter and seven in the second to stake Denver to a 50-44 halftime lead.

Edwards attempted just eight shots in the first half, hitting only one, and he didn’t take a shot in the first seven-plus minutes of the third quarter. After the Nuggets grabbed a 76-63 lead, he got aggressive, hitting a layup and converting a three-point play to quickly cut the deficit to eight points.

Jokic took over the rest for the remainder of the quarter, banking in a hook shot, converting a pair of three-point plays and making two more free throws to put Denver ahead 88-74 heading into the fourth.

Jokic finished the third with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

“You saw an MVP, best-player-in-the-world performance,” Finch said. “We tried to do a bit of everything on him and he had it all going. We really didn’t have an answer for him.” – Reuters.

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