MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards stared straight into his locker after Minnesota’s loss to Denver in Game 3, reflecting on the Timberwolves being on the brink of elimination.
Resolute, Edwards told his teammates the Nuggets still needed to win another game and their season wasn’t over. The 21-year-old star made sure Minnesota’s season continued and the series returned to Denver.
Edwards scored 34 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and the Timberwolves beat the Nuggets 114-108 in overtime in Game 4 to avoid elimination Sunday night.
“I take pride. I didn’t want to say I got swept,” Edwards said. “I don’t ever want to say I got swept in my career. So, I definitely took it personally tonight.”
Nikola Jokic tied a playoff career high with 43 points and added 11 rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets.
“We had an opportunity to close a series,” Jokic said. “We just didn’t. They were fighting. They were desperate. But it is what it is.”
Rudy Gobert added 14 points and 15 rebounds for Minnesota, which held on after Denver scored the final 12 points of regulation to force overtime.
Game 5 is Tuesday in Denver.
“We show grit,” Towns said. “It’s weird, when our backs are against the wall, we seem to find a way to get a win. It’s great that we got it tonight and we’ve got to do it three more times.”
Jamal Murray finished with 19 points and Aaron Gordon scored 14 for Denver, which appeared primed to have a chance to rest before the second round where it would face the winner of the Suns-Clippers series, which Phoenix leads 3-1.
The Nuggets were looking to sweep a series for the first time in team history, a fact not lost on this year’s team.
“That’s a missed opportunity, but we’re still in the lead, we’ve still got a commanding lead, and we’re going to go back home to our place and do what we need to do,” Murray said.
Edwards took a step forward this year while Towns missed 52 games with a calf strain. He took over the scoring load and produced several electrifying moments for the Timberwolves and was supported by his veteran teammates, who implored the athletic youngster to take control in games.
“I know my team. I know they’re counting on me to pick us up,” Edwards said. “That’s just what I do. I feel like in those moments, that’s when I come alive the most.”
Edwards resurrected Minnesota in the third as the team went on a 23-9 run. He scored 16 of his points in the quarter and the Timberwolves eventually led by 12 midway through the fourth.
“He’s got a special quality we talked about,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “He’s not afraid of those moments at this point in time. You see what they’re made of. They can shy away from them. He certainly doesn’t.”
Minnesota lost in the first round to Memphis last year, surrendering three double-digit, fourth-quarter leads.
This time, Jokic took another Wolves’ lead away — until they snapped back with 18 overtime points.
“We’re not going to go undefeated in the postseason,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “So, yeah, we lost a game, we had our chances, but we’ve got to go home and regroup and not feel sorry for ourselves and get ready to play against a team that has some life in them.”
Edwards drained a step-back jumper with 2:52 left in regulation that gave the Wolves a 96-84 lead, their largest of the game, but the Nuggets came back with three straight 3-pointers. A jumper by Jokic cut the lead to one with 49 seconds left. He was fouled by Towns on the other end and made one of two free throws to tie the game with 12 seconds to go.
Edwards had the ball at the end for the potential game-winner, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocked it out of his hands before he could shoot.
Teammates credited the work Nickeil Alexander-Walker did defensively on Murray, who averaged 27.3 points in the first three games. Alexander-Walker also scored six of his eight points in overtime.
“He was the MVP tonight,” Edwards said.
Nuggets: The league’s best shooting team in the regular season, Denver shot just 44.2% from the field and was 12 of 35 from 3, its worst numbers of the series. … The Nuggets scored 22 points off 12 Minnesota turnovers.
Timberwolves: Kyle Anderson, who had 11 points off the bench, was declared out with a left eye/facial contusion after taking an errant hand to the face from Edwards in the fourth. Finch said Anderson will see an eye specialist. ___
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Brian Hall, The Associated Press