Nikola Jokic Guides Nuggets to 3–2 Series Edge on Wolves

Nikola Jokic Guides Nuggets to 3–2 Series Edge on Wolves
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball under pressure from Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) as guard Jamal Murray (27) and guard Anthony Edwards (5) battle for position in the first quarter during game five of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs in Denver on May 14, 2024. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports via Field Level Media)
Field Level Media

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, May 14, 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 Thursday night 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.

“I just laugh,” Edwards said of Jokic. “That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad. ... He’s the MVP. He’s the best player in the NBA. He showed it the last three games. ... He was special tonight. I have to give him his flowers. He was that guy.”

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.”

Gordon hit the first basket of the fourth before the Timberwolves scored six quick points to cut the gap to 90–80 and force a timeout. Caldwell-Pope sank two corner 3-pointers and Murray stole the ball from Edwards and fed Jokic for a dunk and a 98–80 lead with 7:12 left.

Minnesota made a last push to get within 101–90, but Murray hit three shots in the final minutes to seal the win.

“We’re trying to win every game,” Murray said. “We’ve got to go in there with the same attitude we did the last time we went there. We know the place is going to be rocking, we know they’re going to come out aggressive. For us it’s focusing on us, the energy we bring.”

Christian Braun scored 10 points off the bench for Denver.