NBA playoffs

‘Motivated’ MVP Nikola Jokic guides Nuggets to 3-2 edge on Timberwolves


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‘Motivated’ MVP Nikola Jokic guides Nuggets to 3-2 edge on Timberwolves

MVP MOVES. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic controls the ball as Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson defends in Game 5.

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

‘Whenever he gets it going like that, you let him dictate how the game's going to go,’ says Jamal Murray of his fellow Denver star Nikola Jokic as the Nuggets inch closer to a West conference finals berth

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, in Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday, May 14 (Wednesday, May 15, Manila time).

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, May 16, in Minneapolis.

Minnesota All-Star guard Anthony Edwards struggled from the field, finishing 5-for-15 and scoring 18 points. He added 9 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 7 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 8 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.

Gordon hit the first basket of the fourth before the Timberwolves scored 6 quick points to cut the gap to 90-80 and force a timeout. Caldwell-Pope sank two corner three-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.

Christian Braun scored 10 points off the bench for Denver. –

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