Wolves stagger Nuggets again as Edwards, Towns spark Game 2 rout


DENVER — Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns powered Minnesota’s 106-80 blitz of the Denver Nuggets on Monday night that gave the Timberwolves a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals over the reigning but reeling NBA champions.

Towns and Edwards both scored 27 points as the Wolves improved to 6-0 in the playoffs and gave themselves a chance to close out the fuming Nuggets with wins Friday night and Sunday in Minneapolis.

So dominant were the Wolves that they had the Nuggets throwing both fits (Michael Malone) and objects onto the court (Jamal Murray).

Aaron Gordon led Denver with 20 points, and Nikola Jokic put up 16 points and 16 rebounds, but their third-leading scorer was sub Justin Holiday with 13 points. Murray scored eight points on 3-of-18 shooting.

The Wolves staggered the Nuggets with body blow after body blow even though their starting center Rudy Gobert was back home in Minneapolis attending the birth of his son on Sunday. But the Wolves didn’t need Gobert’s shot-blocking prowess and rim protection on this night to continue their domination of the Nuggets at Ball Arena, where Denver was 36-8 before their back-to-back losses to Minnesota.

Kyle Anderson replaced Gobert in the starting lineup, and the Timberwolves hounded Jokic and disrupted Denver’s offense just the same.

During a 43-18 first-half flourish by Minnesota — Edwards was on the bench for much of it, no less — the Nuggets grew so frustrated that Malone ran way out onto the court and got in official Marc Davis’ face for an extended blowup during a timeout and somehow avoided being assessed a technical foul.

Murray, Denver’s ailing point guard, threw a heat pack onto the court in frustration as Towns was about to score on a layup in the second quarter. It wasn’t clear if the officials realized it was Murray who threw the object onto the court and not a fan. He will likely face punishment from the league, however.

Perturbed by their slow starts — the Nuggets have trailed by double digits in six of their seven playoff games and by nine in the other — Malone challenged his team to get off to a strong start for once.

“What are we waiting for?” he pleaded after Sunday’s practice.

Only Aaron Gordon heeded his coach’s call, scoring 13 quick points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Nuggets to 18-17 late in the first quarter.

Things unraveled for Denver after that because Jokic was the only other starter to score for the Nuggets before the second quarter. Jokic had just eight points by halftime and Murray, still bothered by a strained left calf, scored just two first-half points for the duo’s worst offensive output in a half this season.

Trailing 61-35 at the break, the Nuggets’ 26-point halftime deficit was Denver’s largest in a home playoff game in franchise history.

The Wolves led 82-60 after three quarters and cruised the rest of the way.


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