The Minnesota Timberwolves overwhelmed the Denver Nuggets 115-70 on Thursday to force the defending NBA champions to a decisive game seven in their Western Conference semifinal series.

Anthony Edwards shook off an injury scare to finish with 27 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals as the young, hungry Timberwolves fended off elimination against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, who had won the previous three games, to take charge of the best-of-seven series.

Jaden McDaniels scored 21 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Minnesota finished with a 62-43 advantage in rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves outscored the Nuggets bench 36-9.

The Nuggets will host the winner-take-all game seven on Sunday.

“I’m super pumped for it,” 22-year-old Edwards said of the chance to eliminate the Nuggets on their home floor.

But McDaniels cautioned that the Nuggets would be ready as well.

“It’s not over,” McDaniels said. “We’re just going to try to keep this intensity for the next game.”

With their backs against the wall, the Timberwolves absorbed an early punch, falling behind 9-2 before exploding for a 20-0 scoring run.

They out-scored the Nuggets 31-14 in the first quarter, dominating in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 19-9.

Denver went nearly six minutes without scoring, the crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis growing more frenzied as the Timberwolves’ lead grew.

Another surge by Denver to open the second quarter was quickly repelled with a 13-0 Minnesota run that featured back-to-back baskets from Naz Reid and a three-pointer from Edwards.

Every time the Nuggets looked to be gaining momentum, Minnesota responded, their energy rewarded once again as McDaniels grabbed the rebound from a Reid miss for a second-chance basket at the halftime buzzer, giving the Timberwolves a 59-40 lead at the break.

The Right Energy

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was pleased with a bounce-back performance from his team.

“There were two responses,” Finch said. “There was the response to the last three games, but the most important response was when we got down 9-2. And we did a really good job of focusing and coming back with the right energy.”

It was more of the same in the third, with Minnesota taking a 66-42 lead when Edwards came up with a steal and threw down a dunk.

Moments later, however, he took a frightening fall under the basket, landing hard and rolling to face the floor before gesturing to his lower back.

Edwards said he banged his tailbone but would be ready for Sunday.

A step-back three-pointer by Mike Conley, back after missing game five with a calf injury, pushed the Timberwolves’ lead to 29 late in the third quarter.

When Minnesota pushed the lead to 30 on Rudy Gobert’s layup early in the fourth, Denver coach Michael Malone pulled his starters, the Nuggets falling behind by as many as 50 before it was over.

Denver coach Michael Malone said he told his team at halftime, “The reason we’re getting our ass kicked is we’re not taking care of the ball, you’re not rebounding, we’re playing with no physicality and no toughness.”

“They hit us first, they hit us second, they hit us third. They did what they needed to do to keep this series alive,” added Malone.

Pierre Daccache, with AFP

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