Jokic collects 3rd MVP, then outduels DPOY Gobert

by 24USATVMay 15, 2024, 7 a.m. 20
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Nikola Jokic drops 40 points with 13 assists to lead the Nuggets past the Timberwolves in Game 5. (1:32)

DENVER -- Nikola Jokic received the Michael Jordan award from commissioner Adam Silver before tipoff, then delivered a memorable playoff performance to celebrate his third MVP honor Tuesday night.

Jokic scored 40 points and dished out 13 assists and the Denver Nuggets shut down Anthony Edwards in a 112-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves that put the reigning NBA champs one win away from the Western Conference finals.

Jokic also had seven rebounds with no turnovers as the home team won for the first time in this semifinal series.

"He did everything for us tonight," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "And it was fun to watch."

Jokic's domination even had his opponents smiling.

"I just laugh. That's all I can do," Edwards said of watching Jokic go off for 16 points and assist on four other baskets in the third quarter when the Nuggets seized control for another rout.

"I can't be mad," Edwards said. "He's good, man. I think I said that after Game 1 when we won, and Game 2, he's the MVP. He's the best player in NBA. He showed it the last three games, three games in a row. He was special tonight. I've got to give him his flowers. He was that guy tonight."

Aaron Gordon added 18 points and 10 boards, and Jamal Murray scored 16, saying when Jokic has it going, there's no need for anyone else to try to be the hero.

"If Jokic's scoring like that, there's no need to do anything special," Murray said.

Trapped and doubled all night, Edwards was held to 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves with 23 points and Rudy Gobert scored 18.

"I think we did a great job, not just on [Edwards] but everybody," Murray said.

With their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Wolves will have to snap their skid Thursday night at Target Center to force a Game 7 back in Denver.

Jokic, who was presented with his third MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony, scored 19 first-half points in leading Denver to a 50-44 lead at the half. He added 16 points in the third quarter when the Nuggets pushed their margin to 14.

Jokic's dunk with 7:12 left gave Denver a 98-80 lead. After the Wolves used a mini-run to pull to 103-92, Jokic nailed a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer over a helpless Gobert, who recently won his fourth NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, to make it a 14-point advantage with just over 3 minutes left.

After the Wolves inched ahead 55-53 early in the third quarter, Jokic assisted on four consecutive baskets during Denver's 11-2 response for a 64-57 lead that would stand the rest of the way.

Edwards averaged 33.3 points in the first four games of the series and the Wolves were looking for somebody else to step up. Although Towns did just that, Edwards missed eight of his first nine shots, had five points at halftime and didn't find his shooting touch until the game had gotten away from the Timberwolves.

Minnesota's veteran point guard Mike Conley was scratched just before tipoff with a sore right Achilles. He was injured when he missed a 3-pointer on the Wolves' final possession in their loss on Sunday. Nickeil Alexander-Walker started in his spot and had 14 points and five assists.

In his pregame comments, Wolves coach Chris Finch also expressed dismay at the NBA fining Rudy Gobert $75,000 for making a money gesture following a call by referee Scott Foster in Game 4.

That was $25,000 less than Murray was fined for his actions in Game 2, when he, too, made the money sign and threw a towel and a heat pack toward an official.

When Towns went to the bench with his third foul late in the first half, Gobert pointed at Kyle Anderson, instructing him to guard Jokic. TNT announcer Reggie Miller was aghast at Gobert, saying, "You're the Defensive Player of the Year! You guard the MVP!"

It mattered little who was guarding the three-time MVP on this night.

"He's amazing," Murray said, "just the way he picks apart the game and reads the game and trusts his teammates. I'm guessing that for the big fella getting the trophy tonight probably motivated him a little bit. Just being at home was a lot of fun, the place was rocking, kind of felt the energy and he definitely had it going. So, the game plan was just give him the ball and we'll figure it out."

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