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'They destroy us.' Jokic, Malone on how Wolves took apart Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets took command of their playoff series against the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

On Thursday the Nuggets lost by 45 points.

That 115-70 defeat at Target Center was incredibly lopsided, but Nuggets star Nikola Jokic said it shouldn't be forgotten.

"We need to let it sink in, like it's a great loss," said Jokic, the NBA's three-time MVP. "They beat us, they destroy us and we should learn. Give them respect. I'm going to take this as a great loss."

Jokic did the destroying when defended one-on-one in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with 40 points and 13 assists in a 115-107 victory that wasn't nearly that close.

In Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal, the Wolves changed strategy, double-teaming Jokic almost at every turn in evening the series 3-3. He got his 22 and 9 on 9-for-19 shooting. But his team lost the rebounding (62-43) and points off turnovers (19-3) battles while it shot 19 percent on threes (7-for-36) and 30 percent overall when Jokic passed out of those double teams.

"We have to do a better job spacing and reacting," Denver coach Mike Malone said. "If they put two on the ball, you have to make them pay and we didn't do that."

Game 7 is Sunday in Denver. You can be sure adjustments will be made.

"They didn't double me the last couple games, but they doubled me today," Jokic said. "I think we created good shots most of the time. We just didn't knock them down. It's not like we had tons of good shots. They're a really good defensive team. They're the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA for sure, for a reason. But we showed ourselves we can create good ones and we can beat that team."

Star teammate Jamal Murray made one of his first 11 shots and finished 4-for-18 with 10 points after he hit and hurt his shooting elbow on a screen on one of the game's first plays. He did so against a Wolves defense that played with a similar frenzy in their Game 2 romp in Denver.

Murray said he put numbing cream on his elbow to ease the pain when he extended his arm.

"I was never able to get my rhythm again," Murray said. "My team obviously needed me. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to give them the production I know I can."

Malone attributed "getting our butts kicked" to those rebound and turnover disparities as well as a lack of what he called "no physicality" and "no toughness." His team led 9-2 early, then surrendered a 20-0 run that reversed the game's course. They trailed 59-40 at half and by as many as 50 with fewer than five minutes left in the game.,

"They hit us first, they hit us second and they hit us third," Malone said. "They did what they needed to do to keep this series alive and bring it back to Denver for a Game 7."

The Wolves won two games at Ball Arena to start the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. The closest game of the six so far is the Wolves' 106-99 win in Game 1. The Wolves won their other two games by 26 and 45 points while Denver won its three consecutively by 27, 8 and 15.

Murray was asked if momentum carries over less game to game when each is so decisive.

"I think they carry over even more," he said. "When you get beat like we did in Game 2, you carry it over in the right way. When we beat them, they responded and they responded in a big way."

Sunday's winner advances to play the Dallas-Oklahoma City winner. Mavericks lead 3-2. A Minnesota-Dallas Western Conference final gives the Wolves home-court advantage.

"And again, the two greatest words in sports: Game 7," Malone said. "All our guys, in front of an amazing crowd, will be ready to go."