Timberwolves, Pacers advance to NBA conference finals

Arnie Stapleton
AP
3 Min Read
Anthony Edwards (c) starred as Minnesota ousted NBA defending champions Denver from the playoffs. (AP PHOTO)
Anthony Edwards (c) starred as Minnesota ousted NBA defending champions Denver from the playoffs. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

The Minnesota Timberwolves have roared back from a 20-point third-quarter deficit to eliminate reigning NBA champions Denver Nuggets 98-90 in Game 7.

The Timberwolves overcame a 15-point halftime deficit - the largest second-half comeback in a Game 7 in NBA playoff history - behind Anthony Edwards, who had just four points, no rebounds and three assists at halftime but finished with 16 points, eight boards and seven assists in Denver on Sunday.

Edwards’ impact belied his 6-of-24 shooting that included a 2-for-10 3-point performance.

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The Wolves, who got 23 points each from Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels, advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 20 years. They’ll face the Dallas Mavericks beginning Wednesday night.

The Nuggets became the fifth consecutive defending champion to fail to reach the conference finals.

Behind Jamal Murray’s 24 first-half points, the Nuggets raced to a 53-38 halftime lead and Murray’s 3-pointer with 10:50 left in the third pushed Denver’s lead to 58-38.

The Wolves turned to their defence, the NBA’s stingiest, to get back into the game, and they closed the quarter on a 28-9 run to pull to 67-66 heading into the fourth.

Rudy Gobert gave the Wolves their first lead since the first quarter with a bucket to start the fourth and when Towns picked up his fifth foul, Naz Reid, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, was spectacular at both ends of the floor to keep Minnesota ahead.

In one crucial stretch that started with Minnesota ahead 85-82, Reid had two free throws and a dunk before feeding Edwards for a back-breaking 3-pointer that put the Wolves ahead 92-82 with three minutes left.

Murray scored 35 points for Denver and Nikola Jokic added 34 points to go with 19 rebounds but the duo got little help as no other Nuggets player reached double figures in points.

In New York, the Indiana Pacers rode one of the most sensational first halves in Game 7 history to a 130-109 victory over the Knicks, advancing to the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 10 years.

The Pacers made 29 of their 38 shots in the first half, a shooting percentage of 76.3 per cent that was the highest in the postseason since 1997, when the NBA began keeping detailed play-by-play for all four quarters.

They led 70-55 at that point and pulled away every time the Knicks tried to make a run in the second half.

“I just told our team when you win a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points for the sixth-seeded Pacers who set an NBA playoff record by finishing at 67.1 per cent for the game and advanced to face top-seeded Boston in a series that begins Tuesday.

Knicks star Jalen Brunson left in the second half with a broken left hand, one final injury for a team that was decimated by them.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine 3-pointers and scored 39 points for the Knicks, who couldn’t overcome the losses of Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, before losing Anunoby and finally Brunson.

Brunson finished with 17 points and nine assists.

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