NBA

NBA: Wolves oust Nuggets, Pacers take out Knicks

By Sports Desk May 19, 2024

The Denver Nuggets will not be a repeat NBA champion, thanks to a historic comeback by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to come through with a shocking 98-90 road victory in Sunday's Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal to deny Denver a chance at a second straight league title.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels each scored 23 points, while Anthony Edwards recovered from a dismal first half to put up 16 points as the third-seeded Timberwolves advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2004. Minnesota will host the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who ousted the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in six games, in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Timberwolves' 15-point half-time deficit was the largest a Game 7 winner has overcome in NBA post-season history.

Minnesota trailed 53-38 at half-time and fell further behind when the second-seeded Nuggets scored the first five points of the third quarter, then began finding its stride to reverse momentum.

The Timberwolves got back into it via a 15-1 run, capped by 3-pointers from McDaniels and Mike Conley, to close the gap to 59-53 midway through the third. Edwards, who had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting through two quarters, later closed out the period with a 3-pointer to cut Denver's lead to 67-66 entering the fourth.

Conley's 3-pointer with 9:26 left to play put Minnesota ahead for good at 75-72, and the Timberwolves pulled away from there behind a defence that held the Nuggets to 37 points and under 36 per cent shooting in the second half.

Minnesota put the game away with a late 7-0 run Edwards capped with a 3-pointer off a Denver turnover that extended its advantage to 92-82 with three minutes left.

Jamal Murray led Denver with 35 points, though 24 of those came in the first half and the star guard was 4 of 12 from 3-point range on the night.

League MVP Nikola Jokić amassed 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists while accounting for 14 of the Nuggets' 23 points in the fourth quarter. 

 Pacers set NBA play-off shooting record to eliminate Knicks in Game 7

The Indiana Pacers rose to the occasion in Game 7, and rode a shooting performance for the ages in advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in a decade.

The New York Knicks couldn’t keep up with the Pacers’ scorching shooting and couldn’t recover after losing their best player.

The Pacers shot an NBA playoff-record 67.1 per cent from the floor in Sunday’s 130-109 win at Madison Square Garden to eliminate the Knicks.

Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 26 points, while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard each scored 20 for Indiana, which advanced to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

The sixth-seeded Pacers, who had lost Games 1, 2 and 5 at Madison Square Garden, are in the East finals for the first time since 2014, when they lost to the Miami Heat.

Trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000, the Knicks played the final quarter without Jalen Brunson after he suffered a fractured left hand.

Brunson had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting and nine assists before exiting after averaging 31.8 points and 5.7 assists in the first six games of the series.

Donte DiVincenzo tried to carry New York’s offence, finishing with a play-off career-high 39 points while making 9-of-15 3-pointers, but the Pacers’ hot shooting made it virtually impossible for the Knicks to stay close.

Indiana shot a blistering 76.2 per cent in the first quarter, connecting on 16 of 21 shots – including 7 of 9 from 3-point range – to take a 39-27 lead after 12 minutes.

Haliburton led the early onslaught, draining four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points in the opening period, while Siakam made his first five shots and had 11 first-quarter points.

The torrid shooting continued into the second quarter, as the Pacers made 26 of their first 32 shots (81.3 per cent), and ended up shooting 76.3 per cent in the first half – the best by any team in the playoffs since 1997, when the NBA began tracking play-by-play for all four quarters.

After taking a 70-55 lead into half-time, the Pacers missed four of their first five shots of the third quarter and the Knicks were able to cut the deficit to six.

Indiana, however, responded with a 20-7 run to regain control and increase its lead to 93-74 late in the period. The Pacers took a 101-84 advantage into the fourth. 

Brunson’s broken hand was the latest injury setback for the Knicks, who were without Julius Randle (right shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (left ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (left foot).

OG Anunoby returned to the starting lineup after missing the last four games, but played just five minutes before aggravating his strained left hamstring and sat out the rest of the game.

By failing to close out the Pacers, it’s now been 24 seasons without an appearance in the conference finals for the Knicks – the third-longest active drought in the NBA behind the Washington Wizards (45) and Charlotte Hornets (34).

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