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Denver secured a 112-97 win at home in Game 5 late Tuesday night, with the Timberwolves losing a third consecutive game for the first time this season and Nuggets star big man Nikola Jokic delivering an NBA MVP performance and then some.

The series returns to Minneapolis for Game 6 on Thursday night, when the Wolves' season will be on the line.

Here are 10 observations on Tuesday's game:

1. Conley was missing,Towns was hurting and Edwards was struggling.

All of it contributed to Tuesday's loss at Denver in a Western Conference semifinal game that was all Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets.

When it was over, Denver had won its third consecutive game in the series. The Nuggets will go back to Target Center on Thursday with a 3-2 series lead and the chance to close out what had been the NBA's best defense until this series and more specifically Tuesday night.

When it was over, Denver finally was the first team in this series to win a home game.

Before Tuesday's Game 5, Jokic accepted the Michael Jordan trophy for winning his third league MVP award, then he went out and played a little like every other great player who has won that award, except maybe Mike.

He twisted and turned and scored and assisted in every which way during a performance that appeared personal and utterly abused four-time NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert and sixth man of the year Naz Reid as well.

Jokic finished with 40 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, two three-pointers and no turnovers. He orchestrated a 23-8 third quarter run that turned a tight game into a double-digit lead.

Included was a gorgeous no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to Aaron Gordon that was just showing off — and would have been even better if Reid hadn't with a foul kept Gordon from punctuating it with a slam dunk.

In the middle of it all, TNT analyst and former Wolves guard Jamal Crawford saw greatness.

"I just saw three different players," Crawford said. "I saw the [Hakeem Olajuwon] Dream Shake, the Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] hook, and now he's running Magic Johnson at the point with a little Larry Bird."

2. Towns goes down, then gets up and plays on all night

The Wolves started the game without the injured Conley, then saw Towns go down clutching his right knee with just eight minutes gone in the game.

Yes, that right knee, the same one on which he missed a month late in the regular season after he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Towns went down after colliding with Denver's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In pain, he stayed in the game, temporarily went to the tunnel and rode an exercise bike for a time.

He returned and played on, producing a 23-point, six-rebound night despite foul trouble.

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3. Injured Wolves point guard turns into Coach Conley

Conley was a late scratch from the starting lineup and the game because of right Achilles tendon soreness. Coach Chris Finch said Conley was hurt on the final play in Game 4.

Guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker started in Conley's place. Alexander-Walker started 20 regular-season games and played in all 82 games overall, averaging 8.0 points on 43.9% shooting (and 39.1 on threes). He also averaged 2.5 assists and 2.0 rebounds.

Alexander-Walker made all four shots he took before halftime — three of them three-pointers — and had 11 points when the Wolves trailed 50-44 at intermission after a first half played at a hectic pace.

Conley sat on the bench in an off-white suit and played role of assistant coach, making sure he was in Edwards' ear much of the night.

4. The Original A.G. overcomes early foul trouble

Game 4 star Gordon found early foul trouble, picking up his second before the game was four minutes old. He soon went to the bench and was replaced by veteran forward Justin Holiday. Holiday soon found foul trouble, too.

In Sunday's Game 4, Gordon made his first 10 shots — many contested, many not just from around the basket — before he finished 11-for-12 for 27 points. He also was 3-for-3 from the foul line.

He played fewer than five minutes in the first quarter Tuesday, but he returned early in the second and delivered energy and playmaking. Oh, and a crowd-thrilling one-handed slam in which he beat Towns to the basket on a full run from the backcourt.

He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds despite that foul trouble.

5. Nuggets win the game of runs

The Wolves started the second half with an 11-3 run that brought them from trailing 50-44 at halftime into a 55-53 lead with a little more than two minutes gone in the third quarter.

The Nuggets simply responded with one of their own, a 21-8 run that pushed their lead into double figures at 74-63 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

By then, Jokic already had 12 assists in the game, after he hadn't reached 10 assists in his last five games before Game 5.

6. Long night for Ant

One game after scoring his career playoff-record 44 points, Edwards needed 15 shots from the field to make five of them and score 18 points. He started 1-for-8 and was 3-for-13 while the Nuggets threw multiple defenses at him.

7. Denver coach Malone working the refs, with success

Denver coach Mike Malone wisely made use of a technical foul for which he was called for berating the officials after Gobert wasn't called for an offensive foul early in the second quarter's opening minutes.

Not long after that, the officials whistled not one, not two, but three offensive fouls on Wolves players, including a third foul on Reid.

Gobert scored on the play that started it all, giving the Wolves a brief 31-29 lead. By then, the Nuggets already had four blocked shots as well.

8. Back home again, Nuggets and their fans celebrate Jokic's third league MVP in four years

Jokic received his third league MVP award before the game, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handing the Michael Jordan trophy over to Jokic fewer than 15 minutes before opening tip.

Teammates swarmed him on the court after he lifted the trophy to the cheering crowd, but he did not address the audience.

"Three MVPs and the championship in four years, what a run," Silver said.

9. Finally, a win at home

Somebody finally won a home game in the series. The Nuggets did it Tuesday after the Wolves won the first two games in Denver and then Denver won the next two at Target Center after a three-day break in the teams' playoff schedule.

Before Game 5, Finch explained the uncommon phenomenon.

"We've got guys who just had babies, just life stuff," Finch said. "When you're on the road, it's way more of a bunker mentality. The day is just mapped out for you. It's a little different. But you're a pro. You've got to handle it."

10. Step back and let the big fella work

Teammate Jamal Murray credits the pregame ceremony in which Jokic accepted the trophy in front of his home crowd for such a dominant performance.

"Getting the trophy probably motivated him a little bit," Murray told reporters afterward. "Just being at home, it was a lot of fun. The place was rocking and you kind of felt the energy. He definitely had it going. So just give him the ball and we'll figure it out."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.