Jokic scores 41 points as Nuggets beat Timberwolves 116-107 to top West.

Denver — Nikola Jokic downplayed the contest between Western Conference leaders, then put on a spectacle for the ages and proved he's the best player in the world. Jokic, the odds-on favorite for a third MVP, scored 40 points in his 20th career game to help the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-107 on Wednesday.  

Jokic made 16 of 20 shots against the NBA's greatest defense, defended by Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid, and scored 41 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. All in front of Ball Arena's 41st sellout and ESPN's national audience.  

Nikola always embraces physicality. He never hesitates, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. The Hall of Fame will someday include Rudy Gobert. Gobert will be one of the best defenders of his generation. It shows how great Nikola is. I doubt any NBA player can defend Nikola 1-on-1.”  

The Nuggets pulled away by holding Anthony Edwards scoreless in the fourth quarter with Jamal Murray scoring 20 points in 27 minutes and Michael Porter Jr. scoring 18. Edwards led Minnesota with 25 points but was ineffective in the fourth as Denver's backups dominated with Peyton Watson's six blocks and Christian Braun's rim-rattling dunks.  

“They were great,” he remarked. It felt like P-Wat was everywhere. He had lots of energy. C.B., that two-minute sequence was wonderful. It made me happy for them. I think they don't given enough recognition for their floor work, which saves us energy and effort. They're needed.”  

Jokic said, “I think I’m playing good basketball,” despite his MVP odds improving Wednesday night. The basketball team is good. Many people in the league play great basketball, and a couple deserve the award.” Edwards stated Jokic blocked his shot, forcing him to dish, and his teammates' shots weren't falling: “He’s just there, so there’s nowhere for me to go,” Edwards said.  

The Nuggets (56-24) led Minnesota and Oklahoma City (55-25) in the West by one game. Wednesday night, the Thunder defeated San Antonio 127-89 to keep within striking reach of the conference's top spot. Nuggets are best-in-the-West 33-8 at home, where they used the No. 1 seed last year to go 10-1 in the playoffs and capture their first NBA title.  

“I don’t think it’s a really big game,” Jokic said of this matchup. Edwards claimed this was the biggest regular-season game. “We knew what this game was going to determine,” Edwards added. We knew we could be the No. 1 seed if we won, and if we lost, they could be. We cared previously, but now we're powerless.”  

Denver trailed for most of the game but completed the third quarter on a 9-1 surge to lead 83-80 heading into the fourth quarter. Malone, who has been claiming for weeks that his team can win anyplace, anytime, said entering the playoffs at peak health is more essential than being the West's top seed. A year earlier, the Wolves were undermanned in the playoffs but gave the Nuggets the hardest time on their way to the title. Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) will return this weekend regardless of Minnesota's seed.   

Despite this loss in Denver, the Timberwolves are swaggering into the playoffs, unlike last year. "It'd be easier because he'll get 25 points every night," Edwards added. “He enters the gym with 25 points.”  

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