DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray never had this type of performance with such an ear-splitting soundtrack to go with it.
Murray scored 40 points and Michael Porter Jr. had 13 of his 16 in the fourth quarter, powering the Denver Nuggets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113 on Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in the NBA playoff series.
Murray hadn’t ever produced even a 30-point playoff game at Ball Arena — his two 50-point postseason performances came in the NBA bubble in Florida in 2020.
“It’s nice,” Murray said. “It’s nice having a crowd. They got me going. That fires us up and gives us a lot of life even when we’re not playing our best.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone called it a “passionate, heartfelt performance,” and he gave Murray a big hug when he brought him out in the closing seconds and implored the crowd to show its appreciation.
“I knew they would anyway, our fans are great,” Malone said. “But just to reward him and acknowledge the effort he just gave forth. He left a piece of him out there tonight.”
Nikola Jokic added 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Nuggets, who blew an early 21-point lead and trailed 89-87 heading into the fourth quarter.
Anthony Edwards had 41 points for the Wolves, who shot a sizzling 81% in the third quarter to erase a 64-59 halftime deficit.
“They were the aggressors in that moment,” Jokic said. “I think in that situation we just need to relax and play the right way.”
Minnesota had shot just 39% in the first half, just slightly better than it did in a 29-point loss in the series opener Sunday night.
“We knew at some point we’d see the aggressive, attacking Timberwolves,” Malone said. “In that third quarter we saw it and they played great and we didn’t defend in the third quarter, but I was proud of how we responded in that fourth quarter.”
The series shifts to Minneapolis for Game 3 on Friday night.
The Nuggets’ recovery began in the fourth quarter with Porter scoring eight straight points — on a four-point play, a reverse layup and two free throws — but the Nuggets couldn’t shake the energized Wolves, who clawed back and went ahead 99-98 on an Edwards’ jumper.
Porter replied with a 3-pointer that restored Denver’s lead for good.
“We can’t wait until we go down 20 or 15 in the first half and try to figure out how to get back into the game,” Edwards said. “If we found something tonight, we’ve got to stick with it first quarter.”
Rudy Gobert scored 19 points but was whistled for a technical foul while arguing his fifth foul, a shove in Jokic’s back. It was teammate Kyle Anderson — whom Gobert punched in the Timberwolves’ final regular-season game — who calmed down Gobert.
Murray led the counterpunch to Minnesota’s big third-quarter run, something he couldn’t do the last two postseasons as he recovered from a torn left ACL.
“That was tough,” Murray said, “just sitting down watching.”
And only dreaming of nights like this.
This is the first time the Nuggets have taken a 2-0 lead in a series under Malone.
“What we have to do is not be satisfied,” Malone said. “If you’re going to be a great team, you’ve got to be selfish. Be selfish … man. Let’s go up and get Game 3. Let’s not be complacent.
“That was my biggest concern coming into tonight and it will be an even bigger concern going into Game 3. We know it’s going to be a crazy environment there. Their fans have been asking for Denver. Well, here we come.”
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns scored 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. In the series, he has scored 21 points on 8-for-27 shooting. Edwards made 6 of 10 3-pointers, same as Murray.
Nuggets: Denver outscored Minnesota 19-3 on fast breaks in the first half but finished with just a 19-16 advantage. … Murray scored a quick 14 points as the Nuggets hit 10 of their first 15 shots in the first quarter.
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