Aaron Gordon, Nuggets use 'surgical execution' to beat Timberwolves, tie playoff series


May 13 (UPI) -- Aaron Gordon muscled in for physical finishes and missed just one shot en route to 27 points to help the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4, tying the Western Conference semifinal series 2-2.

Gordon made 11 of 12 attempts and was 2 of 2 from 3-point range in the 115-107 triumph Sunday at Target Center in Minneapolis. The defending champions, who dropped the first two games of the series in Denver, outscored their foes 52-48 in the paint, 27-13 off the bench and led by as many as 18 points.

"I love when people count us out," Gordon told reporters. "It's as simple as that. A lot of these guys on this team have been counted out before in their careers. They've been the underdogs or dark horses in their career before. They've operated from that space before; having their backs against the wall or being counted out.

"I don't think it was anything new to the individuals. It was new to our collective, but I liked the challenge."

The second-seeded Nuggets, who won 117-90 on Friday in Game 3, made 57% of their shots in Game 4. They also sank 44.8% of their 3-point attempts. The No. 3 Timberwolves made 47.6% of their shots, including 39.3% from downtown.

Game 4 featured just one lead change and was tied twice.

"Belief is a huge part of it," Gordon said of the Nuggets comeback in the series. "I was talking to our guys on the court about just believing, even if nobody else believes in us, that I believe in us and we believe in each other.

"We just gotta play our brand of basketball, with a sense of urgency, sense of discipline and a laser-sharp focus and surgical execution, and we'll be fine."

The Timberwolves opened the game on a 7-2 run, but the Nuggets ended the first quarter with a 14-2 surge and never looked back. They stayed hot to start the second, using a 12-2 run to build a 15-point lead and led 64-49 at halftime.

Sharpshooter Jamal Murray drained a half-court buzzer-beater to cap off the Nuggets' second-quarter onslaught.

"You need plays like that sometimes," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said.

The Timberwolves, who outscored the Nuggets 58-51 in the second half, cut the deficit to single digits several times down the stretch, but could not complete their rally.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who claimed his third MVP award on Wednesday, logged 35 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. He also totaled seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Murray totaled 19 points and eight assists.

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards scored a game-high 44 points. Forward Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in 13 points and 12 rebounds. Center Rudy Gobert logged 11 points and 14 rebounds in the loss.

"We are matching their physicality and playing a little bit smarter," Jokic said of the Nuggets' turnaround. "I think we didn't have so many turnovers and haven't given them option to run and have easy [shots]. I think the defense is really good."

Game 5 will tip off at 10:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Denver. The winner of the best-of-seven game series will meet the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder or No. 5 Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.

The Mavericks, who lead that series 2-1, will host the Thunder in Game 4 at 9:30 p.m. Monday in Dallas.