The Denver Nuggets came back to Ball Arena trying to do something neither they nor the Minnesota Timberwolves have done this series: win a home game. The Timberwolves were shorthanded with Mike Conley a late scratch due to an achilles injury he suffered at the end of game four. Denver deployed a constant double team on Anthony Edwards while Karl-Anthony Towns struggled with a banged up knee and foul trouble which left the Wolves looking to their role players for offense. Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic was a force from the tip for Denver and put in a playoff masterpiece with forty points, thirteen assists, seven rebounds, three stocks and no turnovers. He willed the Nuggets offense whenever it was needed and slammed the door shut on the Timberwolves in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets win 112-97 and move one win away from advancing.

Denver and Minnesota traded baskets to open the game. Towns got a pair of baskets while Jokic had his game working as well. Aaron Gordon got into early foul trouble with two quick fouls which meant early minutes for Justin Holiday. Jokic kept Denver in the game while Minnesota got some threes from their role players. He had a big dunk straight down the lane to get the Nuggets within two with six minutes to go. The absence of Conley meant the Nuggets could double off Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaden McDaniels so they continuously tried to force the ball out of Towns and Edwards hands with doubles and that worked to gain the lead. There was a scary moment where Kentavious Caldwell-Pope slipped and collided with Towns who went to the floor clutching his knee in pain. He was able to stay in the game but looked bothered. Denver kept their slim lead to close out the quarter and were up 28-26 after one.

The Wolves went on a small run to open the second quarter and Michael Malone got a technical foul after a no call when Rudy Gobert elbowed Holiday in the chest to get space for a dunk. Denver’s defense tightened up and drew three straight charges but they were struggling to score with Jokic resting on the bench which led to a complete lack of offense in the game for about three straight minutes. Joker got back in the game and immediately worked for an easy layup. The Wolves kept close but they had to work so much harder for points with the Nuggets forcing the ball out of Edwards hands every time he touched it. Towns got a couple baskets to tie the game but then got into foul trouble and had to check out. Denver kept coming, Christian Braun had a nice shift and the lead started to grow a little. Still Minnesota hung in, Alexander-Walker knocked down some shots and all things considered Minnesota had to be happy with where they were considering Edwards was struggling so much to score. The Nuggets went into halftime leading 50-44.

The Wolves opened the third quarter with an 11-3 run to take the lead with Denver playing sloppy and giving up easy baskets. Malone called a timeout and that calmed things down with the Nuggets responding with an 11-2 run of their own capped by a classic Jokic touchdown assist. He continued to be a force on offense but the Wolves continued to find just enough offense to keep Denver from pulling away. It still was so hard for Minnesota to get points though and their frustration was starting to seep through as Denver’s lead started to creep up. After a hard foul from Naz Reid put Gordon on the line the Nuggets went ahead by double digits with just over four minutes left in the quarter. Edwards finally found a little success to pull the lead back under ten and Malone took another timeout. Jokic went back to work with Minnesota having no answer for him and dominated the end of quarter. After three Denver led 88-74.

The Nuggets offense predictably stalled out to start the fourth quarter with Jokic on the bench. After a Gordon layup the Wolves went on a 6-0 run and forced a timeout. Jokic came back into the game and restored order. KCP knocked down a pair of threes while the Nuggets defense refocused and Denver went on an 8-0 run. Minnesota wasn’t going to go away easy though. Just when it looked like the Nuggets might run away with it, the Wolves responded with a run and got within eleven with five minutes left. Jokic wasn’t going to let this one get away. He came back at Minnesota with more scoring and buried a three in Gobert’s face to hit the forty point mark on his night. Time started to become a factor for the Wolves. Gobert got some points but Denver kept responding with buckets while precious seconds ticked away. Murray made sure of it with a couple tough buckets down the stretch and the Nuggets hand the Wolves their first three game losing streak of the season. Denver wins 112-97.

Best matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Rudy Gobert

May 14, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball as Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) guards in the first quarter during game five of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jokic was incredible tonight. Micah Nori spoke during the break between the first and second quarters that the Wolves plan was to let Jokic be a scorer. Bad idea. Joker dominated whoever the Wolves threw at him and dominated from start to finish. Gobert looked helpless defending him but at least got some easy buckets on the other end. The Nuggets seemed to forget that the best way to defend Rudy is to foul him anytime he gets close to the basket but that also was probably due to some early foul trouble for both Gordon and Holiday. The one way Gobert hurts you on offense is by allowing him to get the ball near or at the rim and there was too much of that on Denver’s part tonight.

The Mike Conley injury is huge

Outside of maybe Towns, Conley is the most reliable outside shooter on the Wolves roster. Not having that threat in the lineup gave Denver the ability to double-team at will whether it was Towns or Edwards with the ball in their hands. Give credit to NAW, he hit shots and kept Minnesota in the game for stretches but the Nuggets clearly were willing to live with him, Gobert and McDaniels taking the shots, even if some were pretty open. That plan worked fantastically and rendered Edwards and Towns ineffective for large chunks of the game. Sure, Gobert and Alexander-Walker ended up in double digits & Monte Morris had a couple nice minutes off the bench but in a complete flip from game four the Nuggets made the role players from Minnesota take on far more scoring responsibility than they are used to and it left them completely confounded.

Lots of guys had the three ball going

Braun cashed in on our Thing to Bet by hitting a late three and his over on 0.5 threes. Lots of other guys hit their overs as well, none bigger than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who finally had a good night shooting from outside. He hit four three pointers an ended the night with sixteen points.