‘Fully-loaded’ Wolves rally, end Nuggets’ reign

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DENVER — Minneapolis is going to party like it’s 2004. For the first time in two decades, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back in the Western Conference finals.

The Wolves, who trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter, stormed back to complete the largest comeback in a Game 7 in the past 25 postseasons, winning 98-90 on Sunday night to dethrone the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

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

With Minnesota’s 22-year-old breakout star, Anthony Edwards, struggling through a 6-for-24 shooting night, Wolves four-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns turned in the most impressive performance of his nine-year career.

Towns, the franchise’s No. 1 pick in 2015 and the longest-tenured member of the team, scored 23 points with 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot. More importantly, he gave about as effective a one-on-one defensive effort against Denver’s three-time MVP, Nikola Jokic, as anyone could be expected to give.

Jokic finished with 34 points and 19 rebounds but shot 13-for-28 and 2-for-10 on 3-pointers.

It was Towns’ fifth 20-point effort of the postseason, with all five of them coming on the road.

The Wolves used a 32-9 run from the 10:50 mark of the third quarter to the 11:14 of the fourth to wrest control of the game from the Nuggets. While Edwards started just 1-for-9 from the field, he found a rhythm late, scoring nine points in the third — including a stepback 3 to beat the quarter buzzer.

Rudy Gobert, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year, added an unexpected offensive punch in the fourth quarter, scoring 8 of his 13 points in the final frame — including a miraculous, arcing turnaround jump shot — after starting the game 1-for-5.

Minnesota went ahead by as many as 10 in the fourth on an Edwards corner 3 with 3:05 remaining, causing the Nuggets to call timeout as Edwards screamed and jumped for joy, hugging a courtside fan.

The 20th meeting of the two teams between the regular season and playoffs since the start of 2022-23 turned out to be a classic, and the most compelling game of the series. Only two of the first six games of the conference semifinals were decided by fewer than 10 points, while three games involved a final margin of 25-plus points.

“I think if we played that team a hundred times, it’d be 50-50,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after Saturday’s practice. “You just have two really talented teams [that are separated by] depending upon the day, who gets hot, who’s making shots.”

The Wolves will face the Dallas Mavericks for the right to represent the West in the NBA Finals. Minnesota will host Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Wolves open as -150 favorites to win the series over the Mavericks, who check in at +130, per ESPN BET odds.

“I would say it’s another step forward,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said before the game when asked to sum up his team’s season. “We’re trying to build something here, you know?”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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