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The Timberwolves and Nuggets played the third game of their NBA Western Conference semifinal series tonight at Target Center. Staff writer Chris Hine filed updates from the game.

Live play-by-play

11:15 p.m.: Never a doubt as Denver wins easily, 117-90

Ever since the Timberwolves trounced the Nuggets in Game 2, fans in the Twin Cities had visions of a deep playoff run. Maybe the Wolves got a little ahead of themselves too.

The defending champions responded with a statement of their own Friday night in a 117-90 trouncing of the Wolves at Target Center, knocking the Wolves off their feet for the first time all playoffs and humbling team that may have been riding too high.

The Wolves lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday at Target Center.

Denver was in control for most of the night and asserted itself on both ends of the floor the way the Wolves did in Game 2.

Jamal Murray, who the home crowd booed most of the night, had 24 points after avoiding suspension for throwing a heating pad onto the floor in Game 2. Murray only receiving a $100,000 fine for his actions could play a significant role in this series if Denver comes back to win.

While Murray controlled the first half with 18 points, Nikola Jokic made sure the Wolves didn't have any room for a comeback. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.

The Nuggets lost their composure in Game 2. Now it was the Wolves' turn to lose some of theirs, as Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who played through an apparent left shoulder injury, was assessed a technical following a non-call on a hard screen that had him in pain on the floor during a fourth-quarter timeout with 5 minutes, 54 seconds to play. When he got up, he was heated at referee Tony Brothers. Kyle Anderson also picked up a technical in the process.

The outburst was unlike Alexander-Walker, who normally maintains his cool with officials.

Anthony Edwards finished with 19 for the Wolves while Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 on just seven shot attempts. The Wolves finished with 16 turnovers.

Their offense relied too much on outside shooting early in the night, and the shots weren't falling – they were 10-for-33 from deep.

10:37 p.m.: Nuggets in control, lead by 27 after three quarters

The Wolves had no answers for the Nuggets coming out of halftime and trail Denver 93-66 after three quarters.

Aaron Gordon got Denver going early in the quarter by hitting three threes, which is a problem for the Wolves. Their defensive strategy on Nikola Jokic involves having Rudy Gobert play off Gordon, who they are counting on either to miss open threes or not take them. When he's shooting and hitting, that's a sign it's Denver's night.

Denver continued to pour it on throughout the quarter. Jokic got going scoring-wise and had 13 third-quarter points and is up to 20 on the night. The Wolves continued to look out of sync on the offensive end even as Anthony Edwards tried to get them going in the third. He was up to 19 points, but the Wolves defense looked helpless against the Nuggets, who made the Wolves look a step slow.

Jamal Murray also has 20 for Denver.

9:47 p.m.: Denver leads 56-41 at halftime

Jamal Murray is shaking off the frequent boos of the home crowd and powered Denver to a 56-41 lead at halftime.

Murray, fined $100,000 for throwing a heating pad on the floor in Game 2, looks more like himself with 18 first-half points on 8-for-13 shooting.

He continued his strong play early in the quarter and led a 17-5 Denver run to open the second and give the Nuggets a 45-25 lead as the Wolves struggled to score. They also, for the first time this series, were a step slow on the defensive end of the floor.

The Nuggets outpaced the Wolves in bench production 13-8 as Nikoa Jokic was quiet in the scoring department through the first half. He had just seven points but added six assists.

Wolves forward Jaden McDaniels continued his issues with foul trouble by picking up No. 3 just 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the second.

Searching for a spark on offense, Wolves coach Chris Finch went to point guard Jordan McLaughlin for his first significant minutes of the series at the end of the quarter. But McLaughlin missed two wide-open three pointers.

The Wolves finished the first half at 40% shooting while Denver was at 54%, even with Jokic going 3-for-8. Naz Reid is 1-for-5 while Mike Conley is 2-for-8 for Minnesota.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves with 12 points on four threes. Towns didn't miss from outside. Anthony Edwards has nine points on 4-for-8 shooting.

9:12 p.m.: Nuggets defense put clamps on Wolves early

One way for Denver to get back in this series is if officials began calling more fouls than they did in the first few games and getting some key Wolves in foul trouble. Jaden McDaniels picked up two fouls less than six minutes into the game and went to the bench.

The Wolves offense wasn't as crisp as it has been for most of the series and committed four first-quarter turnovers. Denver led 28-20 after one.

The crowd booed Denver guard Jamal Murray, who threw a heating pad onto the floor in Game 2, every time he touched the ball. But Murray had a good quarter and led Denver to its lead. He had eight points in the first.

Denver shot 11-for-22 in the first quarter while the Wolves were 8-for-19.

The Wolves took 11 threes to eight twos and got to the free-throw line just once, on a defensive three seconds call.

Denver, which has a shallow bench, played three of its starters Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the entire quarter. Murray played nearly all 12.


7:37 p.m.: Chris Finch finds a comfortable spot

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch has a plan in place for how he will coach from the bench while nursing his surgically repaired right knee.

He will again be in the second row of the bench area just behind some of his staff and said he will be near the players when they come back to the bench during timeouts.

"I'm very pleased with that and I'm also protected," Finch said.

Finch said he was feeling well headed into Game 3 and the team has been happy with how communication went in the first two games.

"I'm feeling good. A little better every single day," Finch said. "First few days were pretty rough, but when I'm not here with the team or at practice, during the games, I'm at home, leg up. Starting therapy this week, so that's been good. Pain is subsiding slowly. I just don't want to miss it. Got a great staff, trust them implicitly and figure out a new rhythm and reality as we go. But I'm doing well."

7:11 p.m.: Denver is determined

Denver coach Michael Malone his team will "bounce back" from its 106-80 shellacking to the Timberwolves at home in Monday's Game 2.

Why?

"Just history and many years and games and challenges and struggles," he told reporters. "I'll be the first to admit Game 2 is the first time I've ever seen that from our group. Ever. That's why it was such a surprise to many people who have come to respect and believe in the Nuggets. Because not only did we get our [butts] kicked on the court, we didn't face adversity. We kind of ran from it and we fell apart. We're the reigning world champ. Let's not forget that. That was only last year, so let's get back to play like that, acting like that.

"What gives me belief is this team has shown me they have done that, many times before. You go back to the bubble (tournament in Orlando during the Covid pandemic), down 3-1 twice, two 3-1 deficits in a place nobody wanted to be. We could have easily let go of the rope and our guys chose not to. So I'd be shocked if we're sitting here after the game and our team has given the same kind of effort as in Game 2."

The Nuggets have listed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (abdominal contusion), Reggie Jackson (left calf contusion) and Jamal Murray (calf contusion) all as questionable. Malone said everybody is banged up in the playoffs and indicated he expected his players to play on.