Friday’s NBA playoff takeaways: Pacers outlast Knicks; Nuggets rout Timberwolves

By Eric Nehm, Fred Katz, Jon Krawczynski, Tony Jones and David Aldridge

The Indiana Pacers fought back after giving up a double-digit lead to the New York Knicks to win 111-106 after a clutch 3-pointer from Andrew Nembhard gave them some breathing room late in the fourth quarter. The Pacers picked up their first win of the series and avoided a daunting 3-0 hole.

The Denver Nuggets were in control from start to finish against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. The Nuggets won 117-90 in lopsided fashion, finally looking like the championship-level version of themselves. Game 4 in Minnesota will be crucial as Denver looks to even the series at two games apiece.

Pacers 111, Knicks 106

Game 4: A Sunday in Indiana

Series: New York leads 2-1

Pacers take an ugly win, but a win nonetheless

It wasn’t pretty, but the Pacers won’t care. Never mind that 111 is the fewest points they’ve scored in a game in this series.

Or that Tyrese Haliburton committed a late turnover. Or that they fouled Jalen Brunson in the final two minutes and sent him to the free throw line. They won. And that’s all that matters for tonight.

After two games played at an up-and-down pace that suited their regular season style, Indiana turned things around in Game 3 and embarked on a physical and ugly game with the Knicks.

Haliburton looked spectacular at various points and posted 35 points, four rebounds and seven assists, but the game was decided by a 31-foot heave from Nembhard just before the shot clock expired to give the Pacers a 1-2 lead. three points with 17.8 seconds left. .

It was ugly, but Indiana came through to win its first game of this second-round series. — Eric Nehm, Bucks beat writer

A bruised Brunson didn’t look like himself

It wasn’t Brunson’s night. New York must hope he looks more like him in Game 4.

Brunson scored 26 points and dished out six assists, but it took him 26 shots to get there. The Pacers hounded him, replacing the primary defender with Aaron Nesmith early in the game. If Brunson struggles, it’s usually against length.

Nesmith provided a longer option than Nemhard and TJ McConnell, who had taken turns against Brunson in the first two games. Nesmith got in Brunson’s face. He fought physically through the screens. He stayed in front of the leader throughout the match.

Of course, this was easier to do than usual on Friday.

Brunson entered the game questionably with a foot injury and looked hampered throughout the night, limping at times and not showing his usual swing. He couldn’t really drive past Nesmith. He had a hard time punishing Indiana when he came after him.

The Knicks almost won with their best player looking nothing like him and without OG Anunoby. But they need Brunson to win two more against Indiana. — Fred Katz, Knicks writer

(Photo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Timberwolves 117, Nuggets 90

Game 4: Sunday in Minnesota

Series: Minnesota leads 2-1

The nuggets get the good start they were looking for

The Nuggets finally played a game in their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Timberwolves with some physicality.

Denver finally wins a first quarter. And for the first time in the playoffs, the Nuggets finally won a first half.

These are all things that have been sore topics for Denver, not only in this game against the Wolves, but also in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets beating the Lakers 4-1 masked those deficiencies to a large extent, but they were put on the front foot against Minnesota.

In Friday night’s win at Target Center, Denver played its best game of the playoffs. The Nuggets not only owned the first quarter, but they owned 48 minutes. It looked like the defending champions had been begging them to be all week.

They sent the message that this wouldn’t be easy for the Timberwolves.

But winning a first quarter is what Denver coach Michael Malone called for during the week. Just win a first quarter and build on that. Malone focused on taking small steps, instead of trying to tear down the entire pyramid that was a 2-0 deficit in this series, and the Nuggets responded.

Nikola Jokić responded with a masterclass of 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Jamal Murray responded by scoring 24 points and looking like Jamal Murray. Michael Porter Jr. responded with 21 points, and Denver responded by controlling a game while Minnesota previously controlled the series.

Of course, from here it gets harder. The Nuggets are still down 2-1. Minnesota has been emphatically warned, so Sunday night’s Game 4 is bound to be hotly contested. But for Friday night, Denver looked like Denver.

And that’s something we’ve seen far too little of in these playoffs. — Tony Jones, jazz beat writer

Wolves run out of steam following an eruption

Maybe the baggage that carried the Denver Timberwolves defense was lost along the way. After looking like the 1985 Bears in a dominating performance in Game 2 in Denver, the Wolves looked more like the 2009 Timberwolves with their blindsided Game 3 performance.

The Nuggets made 54 percent of their shots, made 14 3-pointers and were put on the line 20 times in an all-too-easy victory over a team that had looked like the best in the NBA through its first six playoff games. The Nuggets pretty much got what they wanted Friday night, with Murray finding his rhythm and Jokić establishing another great stat line.

There were three days off between Games 2 and 3, which appeared to have been enough for Murray to receive additional treatment for his sore calf and for the Wolves to lose the edge they had played with throughout. a 6-0 start to the playoffs.

Gobert returned to the lineup after missing the second game due to the birth of his son, but had only six points and four rebounds. Mike Conley struggled with 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Edwards finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

The best news for the Wolves is that they can say that they played the worst possible game. That it wasn’t necessarily the Nuggets being great and more the fact that the Wolves were playing so poorly.

But the danger is that they let the champions back into this series when it looked like they were ready to fold. The pressure is now on to regain the advantage for the fourth match on Sunday. — Timberwolves beat writer Jon Krawczynski

Can Murray replicate this performance with his injured calf?

Malone has spent the last three days calling out his team in every way imaginable, including before tonight’s game. And the Nuggets responded with a performance worthy of a reigning NBA champion in their rout of the Timberwolves.

But you wonder how Murray, who had three days off before returning with a strong performance in Game 3, silencing the Target Center crowd that booed from the first minute on Friday, will recover with just one day off between games 3 and 4 after having three days. after Game 2 to rest and get treatment for his injured calf.

Murray was sensational on Friday, getting a lift he hasn’t shown in either of the first two games of the series, knocking down 3-pointers and getting to the basket much better. But will his calf let him do it again Sunday night? — David Aldridge, senior NBA columnist

Saturday’s playoff schedule:

Required reading

(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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