Timberwolves hammer Nuggets by 45 to force decisive Game 7

The Timberwolves and Nuggets played Game 6 of their NBA Western conference best-of-seven semifinal series at Target Center on Thursday night. Star Tribune reporter Chris Hine filed these live reports:

See game details and live stats on Gameview

9:57 p.m.: Here comes Game 7

After three consecutive losses to Denver, the Timberwolves looked as if they had lost themselves. The edge with which they played defense was gone, their offense was shaky at best and Anthony Edwards couldn't get going in two of those three losses.

Fans, league observers and maybe even the Wolves themselves wondered if they'd ever find themselves again.

Did they ever.

The Wolves prolonged their season with a 115-70 victory in Game 6 to set up a deciding Game 7 in Denver on Sunday. It will be the second Game 7 in franchise history after the Wolves' seven-game series win against Sacramento in 2004.

The Wolves defense had the energy from the start and resembled the group that dominated the Nuggets in Game 2 than the one that looked helpless the last three games. They held Jamal Murray to just 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting.

Edwards had an injury scare in the third quarter after a hard fall on a drive to the rim, but he remained in the game and ended up with 27 points.

With the Wolves up 36 in the fourth quarter, Edwards flashed the number seven at a fired-up Target Center crowd. The Wolves' victory was complete by the 9 minute, 52 second mark of the fourth quarter when Denver coach Michael Malone emptied his bench. The Wolves reserves eventually pushed the lead to 50.

Nikola Jokic, who was so masterful in Game 5, had 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting and just two assists. That's a stat line the Wolves will take from Jokic again in Game 7. Michael Porter Jr. was just 3-for-9.

The supporting cast around Edwards made Denver pay enough for leaving them open, specifically Jaden McDaniels, who had 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns provided 10 points and 13 rebounds but was able to hold his ground while guarding Jokic in the first half. The other pair of Wolves big men also finished with double-digit rebounds, as Rudy Gobert had eight points and 14 boards and Naz Reid added 10 points, 11 rebounds.

The Wolves also sent more double teams at Jokic than they normally have early in games, and their defense was able to scramble around enough to fluster Denver's shooters. Even when the Nuggets got good looks, they missed.

The Wolves also got a needed lift from Mike Conley, who returned after missing Game 5 because of a right soleus strain. Conley finished with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds. He also had a big block of Denver guard Christian Braun that got the crowd going in the second half.

9:24 p.m.: Ant goes down, but bounces right back as Wolves extend lead after 3

The Wolves got a scare in the third quarter after Anthony Edwards appeared to injure himself after a hard fall on a drive attempt, but Edwards shook off the injury, stayed in the game and helped lead the Wolves to an 86-61 lead after three quarters.

With the Wolves ahead 66-42, Edwards drove to the basket and missed a layup attempt as Michael Porter Jr. fouled him. Edwards remained face down on the ground for several moments as teammates crowded around him. Eventually, Edwards got up and walked slowly back to the bench during a timeout.

He returned to the floor to shoot his free throws out of the timeout and made one of two.

On the next possession he went back to his defensive assignment on Murray and committed a foul. But he remained on the floor, even if he wasn't as aggressive on offense.

Luckily for the Wolves, his teammates were picking up the slack. Jaden McDaniels had eight points in the third and was up to 21 by the end of the quarter. Edwards looked more like himself when he backed down Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a turnaround jumper from the right elbow.

The Nuggets' cold shooting and the Wolves tenacious defense stayed consistent out of the halftime locker room, especially for Murray who was 4-for-18 through three quarters.

8:41 p.m.: Timberwolves sitting on big halftime lead

The Wolves' physical, intense style of defense returned in the first half of Game 6, and they lead Denver 59-40 at the half.

Denver shot just 32% from the floor and the Wolves held Jamal Murray to just 1-for-10 and two points.

The Wolves began the second with both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench while Denver opted to keep Nikola Jokic on the floor to start the quarter, which is the time he usually rests. The Wolves bogged down offensively without their two best scorers on the floor, and Denver cut the lead to 11.

But Jokic eventually rested and a 6-0 individual run from Naz Reid pushed the lead back to 19, 43-24, and forced another Nuggets timeout. The Wolves extended their lead to as much as 24 as they got a big lift on offense from Jaden McDaniels, who had 13 first-half points, including a putback at the buzzer.

Edwards led the Wolves with 19 first-half points while Jokic had 16.

The Wolves' big men attacked the glass, with Reid and Towns each grabbing nine boards while Rudy Gobert had 10.

8:07 p.m.: Impressive 29-5 run puts Timberwolves in early control

In an elimination game, the Timberwolves look like a different team at the right time as they lead 31-14 after the first quarter.

The Wolves came out with plenty of energy from the opening tip but struggled on offense to begin the night by missing four of their first five shots. This enabled Denver to take a 9-2 lead just three minutes into the night.

But the Wolves got themselves together following the timeout. Their defense threw some double teams at Nikola Jokic and made him give up the ball, and his teammates weren't hitting early. Jamal Murray went 0-for-5 to start the game.

The Wolves got shots to fall, and had a spurt of basketball that was missing their previous three games. They reeled off the next 20 points and led as much as 18 before taking a 17-point lead into the second quarter. Edwards was the catalyst on offense, hitting from inside and outside for 14 points.

The 29-5 run got the crowd at Target Center rocking.

The Wolves defense was swarming and forced four turnovers as MVP Nikola Jokic went 3-for-8. Karl-Anthony Towns held his own guarding Jokic.

5:54 p.m.: Mike Conley will play despite calf injury

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said point guard Mike Conley, who missed Game 5 because of a calf injury, will play tonight. The Wolves lost their composure at times in Tuesday's game in Denver without the 17-year veteran.

Shootaround update: KAT will go despite knee bruise

Karl-Anthony Towns said he got "kneed" in the left leg by a Denver player in the first quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday in Denver, and that's why Towns went to the floor and looked to be in significant pain at the time.

The Timberwolves All-Star center played through the injury, which came in the same leg in which he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in March, even after having a significant limp in the moments after the injury.

Coming into Game 6, with the Timberwolves' season on the line, how does Towns feel?

"I'm playing tonight, so it don't matter," Towns said after Thursday's shootaround. "Does that answer everyone's questions about my knee?"

Towns didn't feel much like discussing the injury or how it might alter the way he plays.

"I'm playing tonight. That's all that matters. I'll take care of it later," Towns said.

Towns isn't the only one who might be playing hurt entering Game 6. Point guard Mike Conley is questionable because of a right soleus strain that kept him out of Game 5. Conley was present at Wolves shootaround and with a do-or-die game he's likely to try to play.

The Wolves may have all hands on deck for an elimination game but they have to do a better job of keeping their cool, even as they are staring down the end of their season, forward Kyle Anderson said.

"Just got to stay with it. I think they're a really good team because they're able to stay calm in a lot of tough situations," Anderson said. "You see it in the Lakers series, you see it in this series against us. That's got to be our mindset, as well. That's what good teams do. They stay calm in those tough situations."