MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jamal Murray scored a season-high 36 points, Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-109 on Sunday night.
Murray kept Denver afloat while Jokic dealt with early foul trouble for the second straight game. Murray scored 26 points in the first half, including 16 in the second quarter. Jokic then helped the Nuggets overcome a Minnesota lead at the start of the fourth to pull away and snap a two-game losing skid.
The teams will complete home-and home set Tuesday night in Denver.
“We weren’t great tonight, but we got a win and we needed a win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We play them in a couple days. We’ll have to be even better than we were tonight.”
Malik Beasley, the former Denver draft pick traded to the Timberwolves last season, scored a season-high 25 for Minnesota. It lost its fourth straight game without Karl-Anthony Towns, who is out with a left wrist dislocation.
D’Angelo Russell finished with 18 points and seven assists for the Wolves.
“I’m not happy now because a loss is a loss,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “But I’m happy with in those moments where you see that growth and you see things that you work constantly with these guys at, they’re getting better.”
Russell keyed a third-quarter comeback for the Wolves, who led 84-83 before the start of the fourth. Russell had 10 points and six assists in the third, while Beasley had 11 and Jarrett Culver added 10 in the quarter as Minnesota’s offense finally found some rhythm without Towns.
With Jokic on the court, Denver took control with a 20-2 run in the fourth and didn’t look back. The Nuggets outscored the Wolves 41-25 in the quarter, while Jokic had seven points and three assists.
“Someone needed to kind of pick it up a little bit, just the energy,” Jokic said about starting the fourth with Murray on the bench. “I think I had a couple of defensive rebounds and pushing the pace. I didn’t think of the score, but we were pushing. We were playing a little bit harder and a little bit faster. That helped us a lot.”
Minnesota allowed at least 120 points for the fourth straight game, and surrendered at least 40 points in a quarter for the second straight game.
“Not thinking that we need any type of home run play or home run defensive stand to stop the bleeding, but us to just focus on winning one possession,” Saunders said.
Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. missed his second straight game as part of the league’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19. … Murray had his fourth straight game with at least 20 points. … Facundo Campazzo was 5 of 7 from 3 for his season high. Paul Millsap had four 3s and JaMychal Green added three in his second game with the Nuggets.
Timberwolves: With Saunders moving Davis and Juancho Hernangomez into the starting lineup, Minnesota had its fifth different starting group in six games this season. … Josh Okogie missed his third straight game with a left hamstring strain. … Culver finished with a season-high 20 points.
Campazzo, a rookie free agent from Argentina, was a spark off the bench and a hit three of his 3s in the fourth to help Denver pull away.
“Facu, you knew he was going to break out,” Malone said. “The guy has played at a high level in the Olympics, the world championships and the biggest games over in the Euro league. It was great to see that.”