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Nikola Jokić erupts for 40 points as Denver Nuggets take 3-2 series lead over Minnesota Timberwolves

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Newly crowned three-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Nikola Jokić put on a show and proved why he is the rightful recipient of the award in the Denver Nuggets’ 112-97 playoff victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Serbian big man, who received his third MVP trophy ahead of the game, registered 40 points, 13 assists – with zero turnovers – and seven rebounds to lift Denver to a 3-2 series lead, its first in this Western Conference semifinal.

Jokić’s dissection of Minnesota is all the more impressive given it was against the NBA’s best defense and the league’s newly crowned four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert.

So good was Jokić’s performance that teammates and opponents alike were lavishing him with praise after the game.

Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon called Jokić’s performance “incredible.”

“He played amazing,” he told reporters, per ESPN. “The three-time MVP just dominated the entire game, in every aspect of it. Astounding. That was ridiculous.”

Minnesota’s rising superstar Anthony Edwards said he “didn’t see any weaknesses” in the team’s defense, but Jokić “showed that he’s the MVP.”

“I just laugh,” Edwards said. “That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad, because he’s good, man. I think I said that after Game 1 when we won, and Game 2. He’s the MVP. He’s the best player in the NBA, he showed it the last three games, three games in a row. He did it tonight.

“He was special tonight. I got to give him his flowers. I don’t know what we were supposed to do.”

Gordon contributed with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was a quieter night for Jokić’s running mate Jamal Murray, who put up 16 points and four assists in the win.

For the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns scored a team-high 23 points to go with six rebounds and four assists, while Edwards was held to just 18 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

After losing the first two games in the series at home, defending champions Denver have roared back with three straight wins and can book their spot in the Western Conference finals with a win in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Only five teams in NBA history have come back to win a best-of-seven series when losing the first two at home.

“Nikola was named MVP after that Game 2 loss and I think the last three games, he has shown everybody why he is arguably one of the best players to play this game,” Denver head coach Michael Malone added.

Brunson scores 44 to lead Knicks to huge Game 5 win over Pacers

Jalen Brunson continued his exemplary playoff form with a 44-point performance to lead the New York Knicks to a blowout 121-91 win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

The Knicks now lead the series 3-2 and a win in Indianapolis in Game 6 on Friday night will book the franchise’s place in its first Eastern Conference finals since 2000.

Brunson, who bounced back impressively after a poor showing in Game 4, also added seven assists and four rebounds. He has now scored at least 40 points in five games in this year’s playoffs so far, the most of any player since LeBron James had eight in the 2018 postseason, per ESPN.

Pascal Siakam scored a team high 22 points for the Pacers, but it was a quiet night for star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who scored 13 points and took only nine shots all game.

The home team has won every game in this series to date, so Indiana will likely be feeling confident it can extend this semifinal to a Game 7.

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