Nuggets brace for hungry Timberwolves in Game 7

After two hard-fought weeks, the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves will battle to see whose season will march on and who will pack up until next fall.

The Nuggets and Minnesota meet for Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal series in Denver on Sunday night with a trip to the conference finals on the line. After six games of blowouts, tight games and wild swings, including the Timberwolves dismantling the Nuggets 115-70 in Game 6 on Thursday night, the series comes down to one night.

“They’re the defending champs, so it’s going to be super tough,” Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards said. “They’re at home. They’re at the crib. Their fans are crazy. It’s going to be super loud. But I feel like as a competitor, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. … I’m super pumped for it. I’m super happy. I’m ready to play it.”

Second-seeded Denver wasn’t ready to play in Game 6 and it showed. Third-seeded Minnesota led by as many as 50 and was never in danger after a 20-0 run in the first quarter and embarrassed the reigning champions.

But the Nuggets have shown in this series what a couple of days off can do for them. They lost Game 2 at home by 26 to fall behind 2-0 in the series but won the next three games to reach the brink of the Western Conference finals for the third time in five years.

They will need another big performance for three-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 28.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the postseason. Jokic had a master class performance in the 112-97 win in Game 5 with 40 points and 13 assists but was held in check two nights later.

The biggest issue once again for Denver is the health of Jamal Murray. He battled a left calf strain early in the series, used three off days to get right but then suffered a right elbow injury early in Game 6 that clearly affected his shot. He was 4-for-18 from the field and had two turnovers in the 45-point loss.

Murray had a wrap on his right arm as he worked on his floaters at Saturday’s practice and was the last player off the court.

“He looked hungry today. He looked like he hadn’t eaten in two days. … I hope he doesn’t eat until (Sunday) at 6 p.m.,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

Despite being just 22 years old, Edwards has become the Timberwolves’ leader. He is averaging 30.2 points in 10 playoff games and has scored 40 or more points in three of those.

As electric as he has been, it will take big games from Karl-Anthony Towns and others to win for a third time in Denver. It helped when Mike Conley returned to the lineup after missing Game 5 with a sore right Achilles.

This is the Timberwolves’ first Game 7 since beating Sacramento in the second round in 2004 — which also took place on May 19. That marks the only time they’ve reached the conference finals while the Nuggets are playing in their fifth Game 7 in the last six seasons.