The Denver Nuggets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-111 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

Michael Porter Jr. led the Nuggets with 25 points, making four three-pointers en route to another impressive scoring performance. His poise in these situations has been very impressive, and he’s stepping up consistently for the Nuggets in ways they haven’t truly seen before. Porter also added nine rebounds, a steal, and a block to his tally, providing Denver with the all-around impact they need to sustain winning at a high level.

Nikola Jokić also logged his seventh playoff triple double with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists, dominating in important ways at important times against the Timberwolves front line.

“I think we didn’t want to give them life,” said Nikola Jokić post game. “We wanted to be the aggressor, to punch them first so they would need to react to us.”

The Nuggets had their own ups and downs, but they mostly handled the pressure well, answered every T’Wolves run with a run of their own, keeping the opposing team at bay. Yes, Anthony Edwards had a ton of points, but the Nuggets limited everyone else by shrinking the floor and daring Minnesota’s shooters to beat them.

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets Game 3 matchup with the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Friday night:

Nikola Jokić takes control

The Nuggets knew they needed their stars to perform on the road if they wanted to take control of this series. Jokić had been good, not great, in the first two games of the series. In order for Denver to win Game 3, they needed a strong Jokić game.

They got it.

Jokić ran the show for the Nuggets, dominating the paint, passing open teammates on cuts and flares, and calming down the Nuggets every single time they needed a good possession. He had 11 points, and five assists in the first half as the Nuggets led by six, but in the second half, he was also amazing with nine points and seven assists, setting the table for Porter, Murray and others. When the Nuggets needed it, Jokić delivered some clutch post-ups and isolations as well. He even hit multiple threes.

Jokić gave the Nuggets a lift whenever they needed it, hitting multiple threes against Gobert’s drop coverage. He also played solid interior defense for most of the evening, sometimes opting out to save a foul here or there but mostly being good. He did deal with foul trouble, but the Nuggets managed the minutes when he was off the floor reasonably well. When Joker reentered the game in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets were able to hold the T’Wolves at ay against just about any run. Jokić created great shot after great shot, and the T’Wolves has no answers.

Michael Porter Jr. steps up to the plate AGAIN

With Jokić’s foul trouble in the third quarter, the Nuggets once again needed somebody to step up during the non-Nikola minutes. Jamal Murray was also having a tough time getting separation from Nickeil Alexander-Walker again, so it had to be somebody else.

Michael Porter Jr. did it AGAIN, doing exactly what the Nuggets needed at the time with impressive drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers, and spot up threes. He took 17 shots, hitting 10 of them, including going 4-of-8 from three-point range. In the third quarter, he and Jokić had a nice two-man game going, with Porter using his body really well to create shots at the basket over Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.

It helps to be a 6’10” cheat code of a shooter, but Porter’s simply doing more than that to be effective as consistently as he’s been. Porter’s locked in and making things happen on both ends of the floor, executing at a high level. His ability to process information and react accordingly has been much better as the season has gone on. The game has slowed down a bit for him, and he’s taking advantage of the moment.

“Just his engagement,” Michael Malone said of Porter’s growth this season. “Part of our culture is being selfless, to get over yourself. It’s not about any of us individually. It’s we over me, and I think Michael, as well as everybody else on our team understands that. If we’re going to win a championship, we’re all going to have to check our egos at the door.”

Nuggets handle road crowd well, stay composed

The crowd in Minnesota on Friday was fantastic. Nervous, but fantastic. They willed the T’Wolves back into this game on several occasions, but the Nuggets simply stayed under control.

After a stretch of turnovers to begin the fourth quarter and a quick timeout from Michael Malone, there was an opportunity to pull rookie Christian Braun and put back in veteran Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Malone decided to stick with the rookie, and he paid off that decision with some tough finishes in transition and a halfcourt assist to Porter for three.

The Nuggets as a team maintained their composure and poise throughout the contest, even in the midst of allowing 35 free throws. They fouled and turned the ball over at times, but every opportunity the T’Wolves had to build momentum was quickly snuffed out by the Nuggets. Whether it be a clutch stop, transition basket, or halfcourt play, the Nuggets found ways to make it work.

This is the first time in franchise history that the Denver Nuggets are up 3-0 in a playoff series. They’ve never been this level of dominant and consistent before, and it’s great to see them show up in a clutch moment against a talented but vulnerable team.

The Timberwolves are close to breaking. Their fans were passionate but angsty in the arena on Friday night, trying to will their team to a victory but ultimately leaving disappointing. Now down 0-3 in the series, there’s no telling how the T’Wolves will respond to this level of pressure, knowing that it may not matter how hard they try.

The Nuggets will play the T’Wolves again on Sunday in Game 4 with an opportunity to close out the series. Malone’s message to the media on postgame was that he and the Nuggets didn’t want to go back to Denver to have to play a Game 5. They have an opportunity to sweep, and they’re looking forward to the chance to get some rest in between series if they can accomplish it.

Time will tell if the Nuggets pull it off, but in this series, they’ve given Nuggets fans little reason to doubt them so far.

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