Jamal Murray, Nuggets open 2-game set with Wolves
The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets aim for their fourth straight win on Sunday when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis for the first of two straight games between the teams.
Denver scored its third consecutive victory in the first leg of a weekend back-to-back on Saturday, cruising at home past the Atlanta Hawks, 128-108.
Jamal Murray erupted for a season-high 41 points in his third consecutive game with at least 32, shooting 7-for-12 from 3-point range.
“Just being comfortable with my shot. My teammates are finding me, and I’m making some shots,” Murray said in his postgame interview with Altitude TV. “It’s nice to be out there with a little rhythm.”
Murray is shooting 17 of 35 (48.6 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc over his last three games.
“An aggressive Jamal is a scary Jamal, and I love it,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded his 18th triple-double of the season and third in as many games with 14 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists on Saturday.
The Nuggets’ offense has clicked over the three-game winning streak, producing at least 122 points in each contest. They went for 122 points in their last meeting with Minnesota, a four-point win in Denver on Jan. 18.
Jokic posted a triple-double of 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in that matchup, and Denver did not allow any Minnesota scorer to record more than 18 points — including limiting Anthony Edwards to 16 points, almost nine fewer than his team-leading season average.
Minnesota will look to avoid a repeat in a potential statement game for the recently surging team.
The Timberwolves can wrap up their six-game homestand at 4-2 with a win Sunday, and beating Denver would mean doing so with wins over each of the top three teams in the Western Conference standings.
Minnesota opened the home stretch defeating second-place Memphis 111-100 on Jan. 27, and followed it up the next night by beating third-place Sacramento 117-110. The Timberwolves added a 119-114 overtime win over reigning NBA champion Golden State on Wednesday, but a sluggish second half Friday against an Orlando Magic team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference doomed Minnesota to a 127-120 loss.
A scuffle late in the third quarter resulted in the ejections of five players, including three Timberwolves: Austin Rivers, Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels.
Rivers begins a three-game suspension for his involvement in the fracas on Sunday and will also miss the second game between Minnesota and the Nuggets on Tuesday in Denver. Neither Prince nor McDaniels was suspended.
Minnesota fell behind by as many as 22 points in Friday’s loss before D’Angelo Russell and Luka Garza paced a furious but ultimately futile rally. Russell scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, while Garza recorded 15 of his 17 points in the final 4:20.
“The effort wasn’t there where we needed it to be all game,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said in his postgame press conference. “I don’t think our approach was wrong, I think our execution was soft.”
–Field Level Media