T’wolves make historic comeback to defeat Nuggets in Game 7

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, right, drives past Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon on Sunday in Game 7 of a second-round playoff series in Denver. The Timberwolves won 98-90 to advance to the Western Conference finals. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

In a thrilling showdown, Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves overcame a massive 20-point deficit to defeat the defending NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets, 98-90 in Game 7.

The remarkable victory, achieved on Sunday night (Monday morning in the Philippines), marks the Timberwolves’ first Western Conference finals appearance in two decades.

Edwards, despite a slow start, played a pivotal role in the comeback. He finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, compensating for his poor shooting night.

“It was tough, man, because I couldn’t find myself, my rhythm tonight,” Edwards said. “So I just had to trust my teammates. … I just had to make the right plays throughout the rest of the game. I did that and my teammates made shots. Big shout-out to those guys.”

Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels each added 23 points for the Timberwolves. Rudy Gobert, who scored the go-ahead basket in the fourth quarter, expressed his delight at the victory.

“It feels great,” Gobert said. “Beating a team like they are, an incredible team, a championship team, with the best player in the world, it feels good.”

The Timberwolves, who trailed by 15 points at halftime, made the largest comeback in a Game 7 in NBA playoff history. Denver’s Jamal Murray was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 24 points and finishing with 35, but he was largely contained in the second half by Edwards’ defensive efforts.

“There’s more ways to win the basketball game when you’re just not an offensive player,” Edwards said. “I’m not one-dimensional. I’m not just a guy who can score. I’m a guy who — whoever their best guard is, I can go lock him down. I feel like I did that on Jamal in the fourth quarter — in the third quarter and fourth quarter — and that’s what turned the game around.”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone acknowledged the challenges faced by his team. “So much was being placed on their shoulders,” Malone said.

“We’re expecting Jokic and Jamal to continue pulling rabbits out of their hat, man, and somebody else has got to give some help.”

The Timberwolves’ defensive prowess, ranked as the NBA’s best, was key to their victory. After falling behind by 20 points early in the third quarter, Minnesota closed the quarter with a 28-9 run to trail by just one point heading into the fourth.

Naz Reid, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, played a crucial role in maintaining the Timberwolves’ lead during the final quarter.

Despite the loss, Nuggets coach Malone remained optimistic about the future. “That was a hell of a series,” Malone said. “They gave us all we could handle and they ended up winning Game 7 on our home court, which is a tough one to swallow. But we’ll be back.”

This defeat makes the Nuggets the fifth consecutive defending champion to fail to reach the conference finals. Reflecting on the season, Murray said, “It’s back to being the hunter.”

Minnesota will face the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, starting Wednesday night at the Target Center.

In another thrilling matchup, the Indiana Pacers advanced to the NBA Eastern Conference finals by defeating the New York Knicks 130-109.

Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers with 26 points, and the team’s remarkable 67.1% shooting performance silenced the Madison Square Garden crowd.

The Pacers will face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.