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T-Wolves go from 20 down in second half to oust Nuggets; Pacers show crippled Knicks the exit

T-Wolves go from 20 down in second half to oust Nuggets;  Pacers show crippled Knicks the exit

DENVER, COLORADO – MAY 19: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball against Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the first half in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs at Ball Arena on May 19, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photo, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by C. Morgan Engel / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The Minnesota Timberwolves erased a 20-point deficit to beat Denver 98-90, knocking the defending NBA champions out of the playoffs on Sunday as Indiana ousted the New York Knicks.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Jaden McDaniels added 23 points and Anthony Edwards got going late as the Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a Game 7.

The Pacers made an NBA playoff-record 67.1 percent of their shots – making 53 of their 79 attempts from the floor – in a 130-109 Game 7 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Edwards, who has become a star for the Timberwolves at age 22, said poise was the key to Minnesota’s latest improbable victory over three-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Minnesota trailed by 15 at halftime and trailed by 20 early in the third. But Denver went cold when Edwards found his range and the Timberwolves cut the deficit to one point in the fourth quarter.

Edwards, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, said coach Chris Finch told him at the break to “play faster.”

“If they want to keep trapping you, you have to take the right action and trust your teammates,” Edwards said. “We were on edge the entire match. We just fought, fought. “And KAT played spectacularly tonight,” Edwards added of Towns. “He carried us tonight.”

Minnesota had pulled within one point entering the fourth quarter and took the lead for good after Rudy Gobert’s driving layup in the opening minute of the final period.

Jokic scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. He added 19 rebounds and seven assists and Jamal Murray scored 35 points, but both said the Nuggets missed just too many shots. “I felt like we got the shots we wanted and the opportunities were there,” Murray said.

“The teams are hungrier, better and (more) talented than last year,” Jokic said of the difficulty of repeating, even in a season in which he captured a third MVP award.

“Everyone gets better. Everyone probably wants to beat us.” The Timberwolves, who had shocked the Nuggets with two wins in Denver to open the series before dropping three games in a row, capped it off with a blowout win in Game 6 and their latest comeback triumph.

“It’s a special moment,” Finch said. “This is a great team with the best player in the world. The series was wild and this game was just a microcosm of the series.

Mavericks follow

Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Pacers book an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points, while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard each added 20 points as six Pacers players scored in double figures.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine three-pointers on his way to 39 points for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson scored 17 and dished out nine assists before leaving early in the fourth quarter with a broken left hand – a final injury for the beleaguered Knicks.

The Pacers broke through for their first road victory of the series with a breathtaking offensive performance in the first half, as they made 29 of their 38 shots for a shooting percentage of 76.3. The Knicks cut a 15-point halftime deficit to six early in the game. third, but the Pacers had all the answers.

“Just a great game, top to bottom for us,” Haliburton said. “We wouldn’t have won all the series on the road – we just found a way.” The Knicks, chasing a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference finals since 2000, hurt their own cause with two costly turnovers on inbounds plays and the Pacers quickly cut the lead back to 19 points.

The Knicks had hoped for a boost from forward OG Anunoby, who returned to the starting lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury.

But Anunoby was clearly limited and left in the first quarter as injured teammate Josh Hart continued despite a stomach ache. —AFP