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NY Knicks and Nuggets on the verge of finals with 3-2 lead

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Brunson’s 44 points gave the Knicks a 121-91 win over Pacers, while MVP Jokic led the Nuggets to victory over the Timberwolves in Game 5.

The New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets took a 3-2 lead each by winning their home games in the Eastern and Western Conference semifinal series.

Jalen Brunson scored 44 points for hosts Knicks, who routed the Indiana Pacers 121-91 in Game 5 at a star-studded Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

The Knicks, who lost Games 3 and 4 in Indianapolis, now hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. New York will attempt to clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference finals with a road win in Game 6 on Friday.

Brunson, who scored at least 40 points for the fifth time in 11 playoff games this spring, added seven assists and four rebounds in 43 minutes.

Josh Hart logged 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, and Isaiah Hartenstein pulled down 17 rebounds. Hartenstein’s 12 offensive boards tied a franchise playoff record set by Charles Oakley against the Chicago Bulls on May 15, 1994.

Alec Burks had 18 points off the bench while Miles McBride scored 17 points for the Knicks.

“To me, that’s been a trademark of the team,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of New York’s high level of energy.

“We’ve been short-handed all year and this is our way. We have to play hard as heck on every possession and we’ve got to keep doing it. So, we have to do that for 48 minutes.

“And we know if we defend and we rebound, take care of the ball, we’re going to have a good chance to win.”

MVP ‘Joker’ shines for Nuggets

Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic celebrated his third MVP trophy by scoring 40 points and handing out 13 assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97 in the Western Conference semifinals.

Aaron Gordon logged 18 points and 10 rebounds while Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points apiece for Denver, which leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 after dropping the first two at home.

Game 6 is on Thursday night in Minneapolis.

Jokic received his MVP trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver before tip-off, then scored 12 points in the first quarter and seven in the second to stake Denver to a 50-44 half-time lead.

Edwards attempted just eight shots in the first half, hitting only one, and he did not take a shot in the first seven-plus minutes of the third quarter. After the Nuggets grabbed a 76-63 lead, he got aggressive, hitting a layup and converting a three-point play to quickly cut the deficit to eight points.

Jokic took over the rest for the remainder of the quarter, banking in a hook shot, converting a pair of three-point plays and making two more free throws to put Denver ahead 88-74 heading into the fourth.

Jokic finished the third with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Minnesota made a last push to get within 101-90, but Murray hit three shots in the final minutes to seal the win.

Christian Braun scored 10 points off the bench for Denver.

Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic was awarded the NBA MVP trophy before the game in Denver [David Zalubowski/AP]

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