DENVER (AP)Jamal Murray has found his scoring touch just in time for the Denver Nuggets to face the best team in the Western Conference.
It helps to have one of the best passers in the NBA getting him the ball.
Murray scored 28 points, including nine in the final minutes of the third quarter to stem a rally by Minnesota, and Denver completed a sweep of a five-game homestand with a 109-100 win over the Timberwolves on Friday night.
Nikola Jokic had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season and 33rd of his career. He has eight straight double-doubles, including two triple-doubles in that span.
Murray struggled to score recently, but has put up 61 points in the last two games, hitting shots that impress his teammates.
”Sometimes he has a wide-open shot and he takes a stupid shot and he makes it,” Jokic said with a laugh. ”He’s a talented player; he can make every shot, especially inside the 3-point line.”
The Nuggets’ five-game winning streak has come against teams with losing records, but now they will face the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, a team that beat them by nine in Denver on Dec. 3.
”When we played them, we weren’t making shots,” Murray said. ”Now, we are, so hopefully it carries over.”
Minnesota, playing without center Karl-Anthony Towns for the second straight game due to a sprained left knee, has lost nine straight.
Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 19 points and Gorgui Dieng had 18.
”We played hard and competed. That has been common throughout the streak,” coach Ryan Saunders said. ”There just haven’t been the results.”
Dieng was the only Minnesota player to have a positive night behind the arc. He was 4 for 6 from 3-point range while the rest of the team was 6 of 36 from long range.
”We have to have faith to continue to shoot the ball,” Dieng said.
The Nuggets flipped the script from Wednesday when they trailed Orlando by 19 in the third quarter and went on a 32-2 run to take a lead they never relinquished.
Denver never trailed Friday, using a fast start to force the Timberwolves to play catch-up. The Nuggets hit 13 of their first 15 shots before missing five straight to end the first quarter.
Minnesota got within four points in the second and trailed by just two late in the third, but was never able to take the lead. The Timberwolves had a couple of chances to go up when it was 72-70, but missed two 3-pointers and Murray scored seven points in 1:37 to help the Nuggets pull away.
”I’m looking for my shot more and when I’m open not hesitating,” Murray said.
Denver led by as many as 19 points late in the fourth before Minnesota pulled within single digits.
Timberwolves: G Jaylen Nowell was recalled from Iowa of the G League. It is his third call-up of the season. … G Jarrett Culver missed Wednesday’s game with flu-like symptoms. He had two points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.
Nuggets: The 13 home wins are second-most in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Clippers. … Denver has two winning streaks of five or more games this season. … The Nuggets are 5-0 against Northwest Division opponents. Last year, they finished 12-4 within the division.
MOVING ON UP
Jokic tied Bob Cousy for 10th all-time in career-triple doubles. He is fifth among active players and at age 24 is the youngest player in the top 10.
”It’s nice to be in that company,” Jokic said.
Jokic is nine behind Houston’s James Harden and 10 behind eighth-place Fat Lever, who holds Denver’s franchise record.
Timberwolves: Play at Portland on Saturday night.
Nuggets: Travel to Los Angeles and face the Lakers on Sunday night.
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