The Denver Nuggets sure do know how to make a five-game series incredibly interesting.

The Nuggets won 112-109 against the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, winning the series 4-1 and advancing to the second round. It was a hard fought game and hard fought series, but the Nuggets proved to be too talented and disciplined for the Timberwolves to handle.

Jamal Murray led the way for the Nuggets with 35 points, four rebounds, and five assists, elevating the Nuggets when nobody on the team could score through the first three quarters of the game. Denver needed every single bit of his performance tonight, and he delivered in the most important moments.

Jokić’s final line of 28 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and two blocks underscored just how impactful he can be even without the shot falling. He was just 8-of-29 but maintained a +3 plus-minus in 43 minutes, the exact margin of the game.

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets Game 5 matchup with the Timberwolves on Tuesday night:

Nikola Jokić had both a great and terrible game

In playoff basketball, there are only ever two ways team shoot the ball: efficient and locked in while knowing what’s at stake, or like complete garbage…knowing what’s at stake. The first half was the latter, with the Nuggets and Timberwolves combining to shoot 8-of-36 from three-point range (22.2%). The Nuggets also shot poorly from two-point range at just 42.9%. Their were plenty of mid-range jumpers and floaters attempted that were uncharacteristic of the team, especially Jokić. He was just 2-of-10 from the field in the first half and struggled with his efficiency all game.

Fortunately, Jokić is also an incredible player and found other ways to impact the game. He had a triple-double by the end of the third quarter and had some good defensive possessions. When the Nuggets needed him most late in the fourth quarter, he absolutely delivered, scoring seven points to turn what was a tied game with 1:46 to go to a five-point lead.

“It just happened like that,” Jokić said of the early jumpers that didn’t fall. “It was not me personally just going ‘shoot’ or whatever, but it just happened like that.”

The Nuggets obviously trust in Jokić wholeheartedly. He’s the guy in those moments to make the decisions, even when Murray’s going off. The ball should be in his hands, and the Nuggets will live or die with how he plays. Being the two-time MVP, Jokić has delivered far more often than not, executing at a high level in the playoffs consistently. Even when he had a poor offensive game by his standards in Game 5, the Nuggets still trusted Jokić to make it happen, and he did.

Jokić also had some big moments defensively and helped win the Nuggets the game on that end with his blitzing defense against Anthony Edwards, who wasn’t as good in game 5 as he had been through previous games. He won the DPOG chain and made things happen.

Jamal Murray kept the Nuggets in it

if it weren’t for Jamal Murray tonight, the Nuggets would’ve been blown out by the 8-seed on their home floor. After two subpar games in Minnesota with Nickeil Alexander-Walker making his life extremely difficult, Murray changed things up a bit, offloading the ball on almost every single possession to be dribbled up the floor. That left him free to run around and free himself up off ball, and he did just that.

Murray scored 35 points on 12-of-23 from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range. With Alexander-Walker being as physical as he was against Murray for the entire series, it was great to see Murray find ways to get open and convert the open shots he generated. He let any and every T’Wolves player know it too, because they couldn’t guard him 1-on-1.

It wasn’t until Murray started getting blitzed in the pick and roll when he really slowed down as a scorer, but rather than force up shots down the stretch, Murray ceded control of the offense to Jokić, who took the Nuggets home down the stretch.

“I think Jamal Murray was tired of hearing about [Nickeil Alexander Walker],” Malone shared post game. “I think he was like, okay, let me show what I can do, and we’ve seen time and time again with Jamal.”

“Jamal made a couple of shots, and Jamal plays with so much emotion, and I think he got our team going, guys off the bench got our team going, and that got our crowd going.”

Bruce Brown and Michael Porter Jr. came through when it mattered

The Nuggets don’t win this game without Bruce Brown and Michael Porter Jr. showing up in the fourth quarter. Brown got the assignment on Anthony Edwards to close the final 12 minutes of the series, and he did a good job limiting Edwards’ activity with help from Jokić in blitzing schemes. Brown was active defensively the entire night, making plays on the ball, contesting shots, and making his matchups uncomfortable. On the other end, Brown got to the free throw line eight times and made all eight free throws. His aggressiveness was a big deal with Alexander-Walker hounding Murray, and in the minutes without Murray on the floor, Brown was mostly good as a decision maker in the offense.

Porter couldn’t make a shot the entire game and wasn’t great defensively through the first three quarters. He stuck with it though, and when the fourth quarter rolled around, he played all 12 minutes, rotating well defensively, driving for a dunk off a Rudy Gobert close out, and then finally got a three-pointer to go. The three was a big deal in the moment, and it underscored exactly why Porter has to be out there. He has to be guarded closely, or else he’s liable to make big time plays in big time moments.

“If he’s not going to shoot, nobody else should shoot,” Jokić said of Porter, encouraging him to keep firing despite the struggles. “He’s our best shooter. I think everybody believes in him. Even if it’s a bad shot, we think it’s going in.”

The Nuggets played with their food a little bit too much in this series, but they got the job done in five games anyway. The Timberwolves presented some problems for them, but the Nuggets were able to solve some of those problems and overwhelm the Timberwolves with their own talent consistently.

Now, the Nuggets will move on and play the most pressure packed series of their recent history. The Phoenix Suns just defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in five games, though like Denver, the games were perhaps closer than they should have been. Without Kawhi Leonard for the final three games of the series and without Paul George for all five matchups, there was a major talent deficit there that proved insurmountable. The Nuggets will have comparable talent in the series, and it will most likely come down to matchups, coverages, and who wants it more.

Jokić and Murray proved they want it though. There’s no doubt that the Nuggets will compete hard in that series and maybe even win it. It will be their biggest test of the 2022-23 season though, and everybody will have to rise to the occasion if the Nuggets want to win it. We will see what happens.

For now, enjoy the off-day Nuggets fans. You earned it.

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