Wolves cruise past Nuggets 111-98 to move into tie for first in the West

DENVER – The Timberwolves' messy ownership situation was fodder for humor from Denver coach Michael Malone and Wolves coach Chris Finch prior to Friday's showdown of two top teams in the Western Conference.

"A lot to be excited about in Minnesota," Malone said. "I wouldn't sell the team either."

Then Finch was asked how the ownership situation might affect his team.

"If there was ever a definition above your paygrade, this is it," Finch said. "For us, it's business as usual. I also feel the players will feel the same way."

That appeared to be the case Friday, as the Wolves defeated the Nuggets 111-98 and moved past the Nuggets with Oklahoma City into a tie for first place in the Western Conference.

NBA standings

The Wolves won thanks to stingy defense against a Denver team that was without guard Jamal Murray (knee). They also got efficient offensive performances from Jaden McDaniels (17 points, 7-for-10), Mike Conley (23 points, 8-for-12) and Rudy Gobert (21 points, 7-for-8). Anthony Edwards added 25.

Nikola Jokic led Denver, which shot just 40%, with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

The Wolves came out crisp on the offensive end thanks to a number of contributors. McDaniels had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting in his first shift, while Rudy Gobert calmed down after drawing a flopping technical and had seven points. The Wolves shot 57% for the quarter and had an 18-8 edge in paint points. Jokic had four points and five assists and Denver his four of its first five threes, but the Wolves closed the quarter on a 13-6 run to take a seven-point lead into the second.

BOXSCORE: Timberwolves 111, Denver 98

The Wolves took advantage of the time Jokic rested and extended their lead to 15 when he was out. They Wolves did that without Edwards on the floor for that stint, as he and Jokic have similar substitution patterns.

The Wolves clamped down defensively, and Denver cooled off from the outside, in the second. They allowed just 17 points to the Nuggets as the Wolves poured in another 29. Each starter had at least seven points at the half, with McDaniels leading the way with 17.

The most remarkable stat of the first half was that the Wolves, who have been turnover-prone all season, did not have any in the first 24 minutes. It was the first time they didn't commit a turnover in a first half since 2005.

Conley came out on fire for the Wolves in the second half and hit three threes, and that set the tone for a third quarter in which the Wolves led by as much as 26 despite Edwards and Reid going a combined 0-for-13 from three-point range to that point.