Murray, Jokic lead Nuggets to 100-96 win over Wolves

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Murray, Jokic lead Nuggets to 100-96 win over Wolves
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, left, saves the ball from going out of play as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray had 22 points to lead six Denver players in double figures, Nikola Jokic wrapped things up with a late tip-in and the Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-96 on Thursday night in a pivotal matchup between teams vying for a playoff spot.

The victory moved Denver (44-35) into a tie, record-wise, with Minnesota for the eighth spot with three games remaining. Both are a half-game behind New Orleans.

Jokic finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while reserve Devin Harris added 20 for the Nuggets. The playoff jockeying between these two teams could go down to the wire with Minnesota hosting Denver in the regular season finale on Wednesday.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds before fouling out with 1:46 remaining.

Up 98-96 with 6.6 seconds remaining, Will Barton took a shot that bounced off the rim and in Jokic’s direction. He batted it in to seal the win. Denver made six straight free throws in the final 2 minute.

Minnesota had a familiar face available and sitting on the bench in Jimmy Butler, but he didn’t get into the game. Butler has been out since suffering a right knee injury on Feb. 23 at Houston. The Wolves are 8-9 since Butler was sidelined.

This game featured quite a showdown between two elite big men in Towns and Jokic. They pushed and shoved each other around, before Towns fouled out with 1:46 remaining while trying to cover Murray on the perimeter. Jokic, who had five fouls, struggled with his shot early but came up big at the end.

Denver caught fire late in the third behind the shooting of Harris, who had nine points to help the team close out the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 79-72 lead.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: G Jeff Teague (knee) was back after missing a game and scored 15 points. Derrick Rose (ankle) had four. … Towns earned his 65th double-double of the season.

Nuggets: G Gary Harris missed a 10th straight game with a strained right knee. “Longer than I think anybody anticipated,” coach Michael Malone said. “Just not where it needs to be for him to come back.” … Jokic had nine assists.

OUCH

Towns momentarily stayed down early in the third after taking an elbow to the face from Paul Millsap. Towns remained in the game.

Moments later, Murray took an accidental hand to the face from Towns while trying to grab a rebound. Murray hit the floor before slowly getting back up.

NOT BUYING IT

In his pregame chat, Malone said he didn’t buy that Butler would sit out despite being listed as doubtful.

“Believe that if you want,” Malone said. “I got a bridge to sell you.”

Water under the bridge — Butler didn’t play.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Friday.

Nuggets: Denver plays two of its final three games on the road, including Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

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