NBA regular season

Top spot: Nuggets take control of West race with win over Timberwolves


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Top spot: Nuggets take control of West race with win over Timberwolves

POINT. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) calls out in the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Ball Arena.

Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Nikola Jokic flirts with a triple-double as the Nuggets inch closer to securing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the second straight season

Nikola Jokic scored 24 of his game-high 41 points in the second half as the host Denver Nuggets took sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with a 116-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, April 10 (Thursday, April 11, Manila time).

Jokic added 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals for the Nuggets (56-24), who can secure the West’s No. 1 seed for the second straight season by winning road games against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday and the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

Denver’s Jamal Murray put up 20 points and Michael Porter Jr. had 18. The win was the 423rd for Nuggets coach Michael Malone, tying him with George Karl for second in franchise history.

Anthony Edwards had 25 points, Mike Conley scored 19, Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Naz Reid also contributed 13 for Minnesota (55-25). The Timberwolves fell into a tie for second place in the West with the Thunder, who beat the Spurs earlier on Wednesday. Both Minnesota and Oklahoma City are one game behind Denver.

Minnesota remained without center Karl-Anthony Towns, although he is expected to back from a knee injury for the final two games of the regular season. The Timberwolves host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

Minnesota fell to 14-6 without Towns and is assured of a top three seed after emerging from the play-in event as the No. 8 seed last year.

The game had a playoff feel from the start, with neither team leading by more than 7 points through the first three quarters.

The Timberwolves stretched a three-point halftime lead to 79-74 behind 14 points by Edwards, but Jokic kept pace. He recovered from a near steal to convert a three-point play to begin a 9-1 run that gave Denver an 83-80 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Edwards and Jokic both scored 15 points in the third and were on the bench to start the final 12 minutes when the Nuggets stretched the lead to 88-84 on a putback by Porter with 8:46 to go.

Conley’s fourth three-pointer of the game made it 88-87, but Denver scored the next 9 points to spark a dominant, game-ending run.

Conley hit another from deep, but the Nuggets kept answering and led 102-92 with 3:59 left. After Denver successfully challenged a foul call on the defensive end, Porter hit two free throws to extend the lead to 12 points.

Christian Braun punctuated the win with two dunks, the second making it 108-94. –

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