It was not supposed to be this way.

The young up-and-coming team taking on the defending champions. A sports-cursed city where everything that can go wrong has gone wrong since the turn of the century. A game seven on the road while trailing by double figures most of the night. All the circumstances pointed to the Timberwolves’ story ending Sunday.

Coming into Sunday night, teams that fell behind by 15 points or more at the half went 0-21.

They are 1-21 now.

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Even with Anthony Edwards playing his worst post-season game, Minnesota turned around a 20-point third-quarter deficit into a double-digit lead by the end of the game. Naz Reid played most of the second half off the bench and finished as one of six Minnesota players with double figures. The Timberwolves defense, their calling card for the whole season, suffocated a high-powered Denver offense in the second half to only 37 points as Minnesota flipped the script to meet the Dallas Mavericks in the WCF.

Two different games played out throughout two halves, and in the first one, Denver competed like a team on a mission. Jamal Murray, who started 1-10 in game six, dominated early on. He dropped 13 of his 35 points in the opening 12 minutes and helped secure a five-point lead going into the second quarter. Denver raced out to an 8-0 run over the first three minutes of the frame, leading 32-19. Denver’s defense put Edwards and Co. in a straight jacket the entire half, holding Minnesota to 19 points in both the first and the second as their intensity put Minnesota in a straight jacket for the first half.

It went from bad to worse for Chris Finch’s club as Murray knocked down five straight points in the opening minute of the second half, giving Denver a commanding 58-38 advantage.

With their backs against the wall, Minnesota dug in.

The statistically best defense was worth its weight in gold, as it held Denver to only nine points for the rest of the quarter. Offensively, Minnesota fought its way back into the game with timely threes, making four of its ten long balls in the quarter. Minnesota outscored Denver 28-14 in the third and trailed 67-66.

The teams traded buckets to begin the fourth as five straight possessions ended with points, but Denver could not keep the pace. Nikola Jokic sat only one minute in the second half, and his legs began to wear out. The Nuggets could not keep up defensively and resorted to fouling to slow down the T-Wolves. Minnesota entered the bonus with 7:23 left in the game, and their foul shooting sent them into the next round. They sunk 12 of their 26 made free throws in the fourth and outscored Denver by 12 at the charity stripe for the game.

On the opposite end, Michael Malone could not find an answer for Minnesota’s daunting defense, and the Nuggets crumbled. After a Jokic triple cut their deficit to three, Denver scored only four points for the next four minutes and 41 seconds. By the time the Serbian sunk a free throw, his team trailed 92-83 with 2:05 left in their season. Minnesota took care of business, scoring the rest of their points from free throws or in the paint and completing the improbable and almost impossible comeback 98-90.

Minnesota fell behind in the series 3-2 and trailed the entire first half, but Edwards’ moxy gave the team confidence that Denver could not finish them off. For a 22-year-old to lead his team on the road and never lose faith even while shooting 25% from the floor proves that the next NBA superstar is here.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets need to go back to the drawing board after getting bounced on their home floor. Murray and Jokic did all they could to keep the season alive, combining for 69 of the team’s 90 points. But the rest of the supporting cast let them down. No other player reached double figures, and only one player on the bench played for more than nine minutes. The wear and tear of playing into June last year and facing one of the most physical teams in the playoffs took its toll. For Denver to reach the pinnacle again, they must change their depth over the off-season.

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