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NBA roundup: Timberwolves force Game 7; Pacers’ season on the line

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Minneapolis — Anthony Edwards flashed seven fingers to the roaring crowd as he walked off for a fourth-quarter timeout during a blowout by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He had that tenacious look of a superstar player refusing to cede to the defending champs all night.

Edwards scored 27 points to pull the Timberwolves out of their mid-series slump and deliver a flawless 115-70 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday to force a Game 7 in this roller-coaster matchup.

Jaden McDaniels pitched in 21 points and lockdown defense, and Mike Conley had 13 points in his return from injury. Big men Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid combined for 38 rebounds and a relentless effort to keep NBA MVP Nikola Jokic to a relatively quiet 22 points.

“Guys just believing in themselves,” Edwards said. “I think the last three games we were all down on ourselves.”

The decisive game for a spot in the Western Conference finals is in Denver on Sunday night.

Jamal Murray struggled again with 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting while battling a sore elbow for the Nuggets, whose bench was outscored 36-9 – and seven of those points came in the final five minutes. The Wolves reserves led a 24-0 run in the fourth quarter on the way to a staggering 50-point lead, a fitting follow-up to the 20-0 surge the starters led in the opening frame.

“We talked a lot today just about getting our edge back, our swagger, playing a little more free and easy,” coach Chris Finch said. “It just felt like we hadn’t had our best effort on both sides of the ball yet.”

No defending NBA champion had ever lost in the playoffs by more than 36 points until this flop by the Nuggets, who were outrebounded 62-43.

“That to me speaks volumes about the game and our approach,” Denver coach Mike Malone said.

Aaron Gordon had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who finished just 7 for 36 from 3-point range and trailed by at least 17 points for the last 31 minutes of the game.

For the Wolves, offense from McDaniels is typically a bonus, but he can’t be as quiet as he was over the first five games with a total of 35 points. He was all over the court this time, going 3 of 5 from deep and mixing in some well-timed dunks to ignite the crowd.

Edwards, whose 44-point performance was ultimately wasted in a Game 4 loss the last time he played at Target Center, had nine points in the 20-0 spurt and needed only nine shots from the floor to get 19 points in the first half.

“Just shoot it every chance I get, because last game they took the ball out of my hands,” Edwards said.

Pacers’ season on the brink

So the last playoff team with a perfect home record has to dig deep and make the most of the energy it receives from its own crowd as it tries to rebound from an embarrassing loss at New York with a season-saving win Friday night in Game 6.

“What’s known doesn’t need to be spoken about. Guys know the intensity we have to bring,” Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve got to have a level of desperation that we’ve never had before, and we’ve got to be ready to go for 48 minutes and understand every possession matters even more than it has all playoffs.”

Getting to this point certainly didn’t occur through happenstance. The young Pacers have provided a difficult challenge for the second-seeded Knicks.

Indiana stopped a franchise-record, 10-game playoff losing streak with a Game 2 victory at Milwaukee in the first round, and then eliminated the Bucks 4-2 for their first series win in a decade. After losing the first two games at New York, the Pacers posted two home wins to even the series.

On Tuesday, though, things went awry.

The Knicks outrebounded, outhustled and outworked the Pacers in a 121-91 blowout. New York moved within a win of reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2000 when it lost to the Pacers in six games.

So the Pacers’ season suddenly comes down to this; keep their 5-0 postseason home record intact and Game 7 goes back to New York. Lose and their breakout season is over.

“We’ve got to play harder, we’ve got play with a greater level of execution,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, who helped lead the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship in 2011. “If you can’t come up with a ball and have level of possessions for the game, you’re not going to in the second round of the playoffs. We’ve got to do better, much better.”

The Knicks, meanwhile, are trying to advance while playing short-handed.

Three key players – forwards Julius Randle and Bojan Bogdanovic, and center Mitchell Robinson – have missed the entire series after opting for surgeries. None of those three are expected back even if the Knicks return to Madison Square Garden for Sunday’s Game 7.

Defensive stalwart OG Anunoby went down with a hamstring injury in the second half of Game 3. His availability for Game 6 remains unclear after coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday that Anunoby was doing “light work, very light,” which is an upgrade from earlier this week when Thibodeau said Anunoby was doing work in the pool.

What has worked for the Knicks is All-Star guard Jalen Brunson, who has topped the 40-point mark six times in 11 playoff games, including 44 points on 18-of-35 shooting when the Knicks needed him most Tuesday night.

And with two days off, New York got some extra time to rest while pondering the possibility of facing top-seeded Boston – if it can win one more game.

“I’m definitely excited,” said Brunson, the league’s top scorer in the playoffs at 33.9 points per game. “I was always taught by my parents never to be afraid to fail no matter what the situation is, no matter the ‘higher pressure’ moments or whatever. If you win great, if you lose, learn from it, that’s just my mindset.”

Or get ready for another elimination game Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

“I think the most important thing is to not get lost in the hyperbole and the distractions and focus and lock into the task at hand, which is winning the game,” Thibodeau said. “So put the necessary work into it and don’t get lost.”

Redick a coaching candidate for Lakers

As the Lakers continued meeting with prospects in the final days of the NBA draft combine, their coaching search continued to be a strong topic of conversation among rival scouts and executives.

Internally, Lakers sources not authorized to speak publicly have tried to describe their coaching search as being a “wide open” process, with things still in the early stages.

Following the dismissal of (Saginaw) Darvin Ham, the team began researching a batch of candidates that included top assistants, former head coaches and, yes, broadcaster-podcaster JJ Redick.

Candidate interviews are close, but as of now, anything being discussed with certainty has been called “hypothetical” by candidates involved in the process.

But despite what the Lakers are saying, many around the league view Redick as the favorite and offered varying levels of approval.

Some see Redick as a bright, analytically driven basketball mind with a top understanding of the game and excellent communication and presentation skills.

Some wonder if Redick’s business relationship with LeBron James would poison his ability to connect with the rest of the locker room, an opinion prominently voiced on television by Udonis Haslem.

Others see nothing but inexperience and view the Lakers’ job as a disaster waiting to happen for even experienced coaches, never mind someone moving from the broadcast booth to his first coaching job.

Part of what’s driving the expectation Redick will get the Lakers job is a belief that he’ll have incredibly strong interviews, according to sources discouraged from discussing personnel moves for competitive reasons.

The reality is, at this stage, no one can say for sure.

New Orleans assistant James Borrego does have strong support in his candidacy and has been highly valued by Pelicans staffers and executives who spoke with The Los Angeles Times.

Boston’s Sam Cassell, an NBA assistant since 2009 after a 15-season career, is expected to interview soon and has real support from others around the league.

The same can be said for candidates like Miami’s Chris Quinn, Minnesota’s Micah Nori and Denver’s David Adelman.

Eastern Conference

Second round

Indiana vs. New York

(Knicks lead 3-2)

▶ Game 1: New York 121-117

▶ Game 2: New York 130-121

▶ Game 3: Indiana 116-101

▶ Game 4: Indiana 121-89

▶ Game 5: New York 121-91

▶ Game 6: Friday @ Indiana, TBA

▶ Game 7: Sunday @ New York, TBA

Boston vs. Cleveland

(Celtics win 4-1)

▶ Game 1: Boston 120-95

▶ Game 2: Cleveland 118-94

▶ Game 3: Boston 106-93

▶ Game 4: Boston 109-102

▶ Game 5: Boston 113-98

Western Conference

Denver vs. Minnesota

(Series tied 3-3)

▶ Game 1: Minnesota 106-99

▶ Game 2: Minnesota 106-90

▶ Game 3: Denver 117-90

▶ Game 4: Denver 115-107

▶ Game 5: Denver 112-97

▶ Game 6: Minnesota 115-70

▶ Game 7: Sunday, May 19 @ Denver, TBA

Oklahoma City vs. Dallas

(Mavericks lead 3-2)

▶ Game 1: Oklahoma City 117-95

▶ Game 2: Dallas 119-110

▶ Game 3: Dallas 105-101

▶ Game 4: Oklahoma City 100-96

▶ Game 5: Dallas 104-92

▶ Game 6: May 18 @ Dallas, TBA

▶ Game 7: May 20 @ Oklahoma City, TBA

Eastern Conference

First round

Milwaukee vs. Indiana

(Indiana wins 4-2)

▶ Game 1: Milwaukee 109-94

▶ Game 2: Indiana 125-108

▶ Game 3: Indiana 121-118 (OT)

▶ Game 4: Indiana 126-113

▶ Game 5: Milwaukee 115-92

▶ Game 6: Indiana 120-98

Boston vs. Miami

(Celtics win 4-1)

▶ Game 1: Boston 114, Miami 94

▶ Game 2: Miami 111, Boston 101

▶ Game 3: Boston 104, Miami 84

▶ Game 4: Boston 102, Miami 88

▶ Game 5: Boston 118-84

Cleveland vs. Orlando

(Cavaliers win 4-3)

▶ Game 1: Cleveland 97, Orlando 83

▶ Game 2: Cleveland 96, Orlando 86

▶ Game 3: Orlando 121, Cleveland 83

▶ Game 4: Orlando 112, Cleveland 89

▶ Game 5: Cleveland 104, Orlando 103

▶ Game 6: Orlando 103, Cleveland 96

▶ Game 7: Cleveland 106-94

New York vs. Philadelphia

(Knicks win 4-2)

▶ Game 1: New York 111-104

▶ Game 2: New York 104-101

▶ Game 3: Philadelphia 125-114

▶ Game 4: New York 97-92

▶ Game 5: Philadelphia 112-106

▶ Game 6: New York 118-115

Western Conference

L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas

(Mavericks win 4-2)

▶ Game 1: L.A. Clippers 109-97

▶ Game 2: Dallas 96-93

▶ Game 3: Dallas 101-90

▶ Game 4: L.A. Clippers 116-111

▶ Game 5: Dallas 123-93

▶ Game 6: Dallas 114, L.A. Clippers 101

▶ Game 7: Sunday @ L.A. Clippers, TBA

Denver vs. L.A. Lakers

(Nuggets win 4-1)

▶ Game 1: Denver 114-103

▶ Game 2: Denver 101-99

▶ Game 3: Denver 112-105

▶ Game 4: L.A. Lakers 119-108

▶ Game 5: Denver 108-106

Oklahoma City vs. New Orleans

(Thunder wins 4-0)

▶ Game 1: Oklahoma City 94-92

▶ Game 2: Oklahoma City 124-92

▶ Game 3: Oklahoma City 106-85

▶ Game 4: Oklahomas City 97-89

Minnesota vs. Phoenix

(Timberwolves win 4-0)

▶ Game 1: Minnesota 120-95

▶ Game 2: Minnesota 105-93

▶ Game 3: Minnesota 126-109

▶ Game 4: Minnesota 122-116

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