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JEFF ZILLGITT
NBA

Denver Nuggets seize opportunity to even up NBA playoff series vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Opportunities missed, opportunities seized.

Game to game, quarter to quarter, possession to possession, that鈥檚 the NBA playoffs.

In a seven-game series featuring two championship contenders, the margin for error and attention to detail take on greater importance.

The had the opportunity of all opportunities, up 2-0 against the after taking both games in Denver to start their Western Conference semifinals series. All the Timberwolves had to do was win one game at home for a tough-to-overcome 3-1 lead.

Opportunity wasted.

The Nuggets took the next two games in Minneapolis, tying the series at 2-2.

Denver topped Minnesota, , in Game 4 on Sunday.

Opportunity grasped.

Denver took control in the second quarter, built a 64-49 halftime lead and held off every Timberwolves run. Minnesota struggled to get within 10 in the final quarter, and when it did, Denver responded.

The Timberwolves cut Denver鈥檚 lead to 111-104 with 1:41 remaining. A sliver of light existed. And who extinguished the light? MVP Nikola Jokic pushed the score to 113-104 with a short runner, and his layup with 25.8 seconds left made it 115-107. Jokic had 16 points of his team-high 35 points in the fourth quarter. Tack on seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and one block for the Serbian superstar.

The Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (15) goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns.

No matter what happened in the first two games of the series, the Nuggets found a way to turn the matchup into a best-of-3 and regained home-court advantage. How many more playoff games will the Nuggets lose at home? Knocking out the champ 鈥 be it boxing, NFL, MLB, NHL, WNBA, pick your sport 鈥 is not for the weak.

A week ago, the Nuggets were written off, a team battered, beaten up and facing a team designed to beat them. Today, it鈥檚 the Timberwolves who are struggling for answers in what has developed into a tense series.

Denver has found offense against Minnesota's top-ranked defense. The Nuggets shot 57% from the field and 44.8% on 3-pointers. Murray, who is hobbled by a strained left calf, is making shots again, scoring 19 points and collecting eight assists, five rebounds and two steals, and with Minnesota鈥檚 Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns swarming the three-time MVP, Jokic still found a way.

91影视 Gordon delivered the kind of effort that makes him an unsung but ultra-important part of Denver鈥檚 success: 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal. Justin Holiday, Christian Braun and Reggie Jackson scored a combined 27 points off the bench on 6-for-9 3-point shooting.

The Nuggets don鈥檛 panic. That鈥檚 one hallmark of a championship team.

A word about Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards. He is a star. Who cares about the Michael Jordan comparisons. It鈥檚 fodder, fun and no harm, and it will matter maybe 鈥 maybe 鈥 an iota 1,000 years from now. Let鈥檚 enjoy the celestial phenomenon.

He had a playoff career-high 44 points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block in Game 4. But it wasn鈥檛 a victory.

Opportunities still exist.

For both teams.

Of note: The home team has lost the first two games in a best-of-seven NBA series 33 times, and five times the team down 2-0 has come back to win the series 鈥 Los Angeles Clippers over Dallas in 2021; Boston over Chicago in 2017; Dallas over Houston in 2005; Houston over Phoenix in 1994; and Los Angeles Lakers over San Francisco n 1969.

Locked into the present, Denver has a better idea of what's required to make the most of the opportunity.

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