DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had a triple-double and Jamal Murray scored 35 points as the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-109 in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday night.
The Nuggets had a slow start, trailing by 15 points in the first quarter and rallying to trail by 7 by halftime. The team stayed in a close game against the Timberwolves into the fourth period, when they blew a tight lead in the final minutes of the game.
Anthony Edwards, who led Minnesota with 29 points, hit the back iron on a 27-foot 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Jokic overcame a slow offensive start to finish with 28 points, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists. He made just 8 of 29 shots, but scored eight points down the stretch to help the Nuggets fend off the pesky Timberwolves.
Michael Malone passed Doug Moe with his 25th playoff win as Nuggets head coach.
The top-seeded Nuggets will face the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Phoenix Suns series in the second round. Those teams tipped off later Tuesday night with the Suns needing one more victory to end the Clippers’ season.
Free throw shots help Nuggets win
Denver advanced thanks to making 32 of 36 free throws.
Michael Porter Jr. was held without a basket until his dunk with 10:08 left in the game. Jokic missed eight of his first 10 shots 48 hours after tying his career playoff high with 43 points in a Game 4 overtime loss at Minnesota.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 26 points for the Wolves, Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out and Nickeil Alexander-Walker chipped in 14 points.
The Nuggets got 14 points from Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown, who was in Edwards’ face on the game-tying attempt at the buzzer. Porter scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers after missing his first five shots from behind the arc.
The Nuggets went into halftime with the lead for the fifth time in the series, but they were up just 48-47 after Jokic and Porter combined to go 2 for 16 from the floor.
Murray, whose 16 first-half points kept the Nuggets in it after they fell behind by 13 early on, got a long rebound and pulled up for a 26-foot 3-pointer when no defender picked him up in transition. That put Denver ahead 48-45 with their first lead since the opening minutes.
The Wolves, who avoided a sweep with an overtime win in Minneapolis on Sunday, jumped out to a 25-12 lead before the Nuggets began chipping away.
Timberwolves: Kyle Anderson, who sustained a left eye injury and facial bruise in Game 4, didn’t make the trip back to Denver so he could see some specialists, coach Chris Finch said.
Nuggets: Denver won a playoff series under Malone for the fifth time in the last five seasons. They were beaten in five games last year by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors when Jokic was without Murray and Porter, who were both recovering from surgeries.