Wolves ‘complete’ with Conley back, rout Nuggets to force Game 7

MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves’ dominant protection that Anthony Edwards credited for his crew’s 115-70 shellacking of the Denver Nuggets in Sport 6 on Thursday. It wasn’t his personal ascendant offense both, after Edwards led all scorers with 27 factors and helped the Wolves outscore Denver by 43 within the 34 minutes he was on the courtroom.

No, in keeping with Edwards, it was merely the presence of Minnesota’s 36-year-old level guard that made all of the distinction within the Wolves snapping a three-game dropping streak within the Western Convention semifinals to power Sport 7 on Sunday.

“We obtained Mike Conley again,” Edwards mentioned. “That was it.”

Conley, a 17-year veteran, missed Tuesday’s Sport 5 due to a sore proper Achilles tendon. The Nuggets’ protection responded by attacking Edwards with double-teams all evening, and the Wolves missed Conley’s capability to steadiness the courtroom.

“Clearly I wished to play final sport,” Conley mentioned. “Simply could not transfer in any respect. Tonight it was a no brainer. I used to be going to attempt to discover a approach. We’re simply higher once we’re a whole crew.”

Conley had 13 factors on 5-for-9 capturing, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and no turnovers, however his affect was amplified by Minnesota’s capability to disclaim Denver an opportunity to key in on Edwards.

Edwards struggled with 18 factors on 5-for-15 capturing and 4 turnovers in Sport 5. He had a season-high 102 touches, in keeping with Second Spectrum, and shouldered an outsized portion of the offensive load for a Minnesota squad that was beginning to sputter in opposition to the defending champs.

With Conley again within the lineup, Edwards’ touches have been lower to 64 in Sport 6, and he was extra environment friendly, capturing 8-for-17 and committing just one turnover.

“Mike means all the pieces for us,” Wolves coach Chris Finch mentioned. “Unbelievable subsequent to Anthony by way of with the ability to set him up, play off of him, be in his ear the entire time. Sensible defender. Simply all the pieces you need in an skilled, veteran level guard and simply the actual fact that Ant would not should deal with it each single time, that alone helps us. … We desperately missed him the opposite evening.”

Within the three earlier video games, the Wolves had been lacking the kind of lockdown protection that carried them to a 2-0 result in open the collection. The teaching employees wished to remind them what they have been able to and confirmed the gamers a video of their defensive highlights earlier than tipoff.

“It was like form of a hype video,” mentioned Wolves ahead Jaden McDaniels, who had 21 factors on 8-for-10 capturing, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal on Thursday. “It had an excellent impact on us. Simply exhibiting that we’re capable of compete with these guys. Like, we have accomplished it earlier than.”

The defensive efficiency that adopted was staggering. The Wolves held Denver to 30.2% capturing total, together with 19.4% from 3. They gained the rebounding battle 62-43, gained the turnover battle 12-6 and scored 19 factors off these turnovers. The 70 factors the Nuggets mustered have been a season low, together with each the common season and the playoffs, 10 factors fewer than Denver’s earlier low when the Wolves clamped them down in Sport 2. The 45-point margin of victory was the second largest in NBA historical past by a crew going through elimination in a postseason sport.

“I believe we should not [forget about this loss],” Nuggets star Nikola Jokic mentioned. “I believe we have to [let it] sink in. It is a terrific loss. They destroyed us, and you need to be taught from it.”

The Wolves restricted Jokic to 22 factors and a pair of assists after he had 40 and 13 in Sport 5, and so they held Jamal Murray to 10 factors on 4-for-18 capturing after he had 16 factors on 7-for-14 capturing in Sport 5.

Karl-Anthony Cities (10 factors, 13 rebounds, 5 assists) was the first defender on Jokic, and Edwards took it upon himself to shadow Murray.

“I need to be one of the best participant on either side of the ball within the NBA,” Edwards mentioned. “It is one thing that I have been engaged on. All of it comes with being in form. … I wasn’t drained in any respect chasing him round and following him in all places he went and contesting all his pictures. He is a terrific participant, man, and I really feel like I did an excellent job tonight.”

The Wolves head into Sunday’s Sport 7 with an opportunity to succeed in the convention finals for the primary time in 20 years.

“They’re the defending champs, so it is going to be tremendous robust,” Edwards mentioned. “They’re at dwelling. They’re on the crib. Their followers are loopy. It is going to be tremendous loud. However I really feel like as a competitor, it is the most effective emotions on this planet. … I am tremendous pumped for it. I am tremendous pleased. I am able to play it.”

It sounds just like the Nuggets are prepared, too.

“It is all in regards to the mindset now,” Murray mentioned. “All that is behind us, all these video games we’re speaking about [are] all behind us. Now it is simply Sunday, who wins these 48 minutes and the way are we going to try this.”

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.