Wolves try to corral Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, force Game 7

The Denver Nuggets look to close out the Minnesota Timberwolves when the teams meet in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Thursday night.

Denver, which lost the first two games of the series, has responded with three wins in a row to seize a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series. The Nuggets are coming off a 112-97 win in Game 5 on Tuesday night to push the Timberwolves into an elimination game.

Nikola Jokic has led the resurgence for the defending champion Nuggets. Jokic scored 40 points on 15-for-22 shooting from the field in Game 5 and has 99 points in his past three games.

How is Minnesota feeling after Jokic’s latest superstar performance?

“I just laugh, man,” Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards said. “That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad.

“Because he’s good, man. … He’s the MVP, best player in the NBA. He showed it the last three games. He was special (in Game 5). I’ve got to give him his flowers. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. He was that guy (on Tuesday).”

The Timberwolves will have to find a way to slow Jokic and force a winner-take-all Game 7, which would be Sunday in Denver.

Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves’ starting center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, said he and his teammates needed to stay positive. He said the team’s mental game plan would be just as important as anything the coaches drew up on a white board.

“We’ve got to keep our head,” Gobert said. “I think that’s the story for us. We know he’s a one-of-a-kind player. We know he’s going to make some incredible plays. But we’ve got to keep at it. …

“The second half (on Tuesday), we got a little too demoralized. We can’t have that.”

Denver could have felt demoralized after falling behind 0-2 in the series, including a 26-point shellacking in Game 2. But coach Michael Malone challenged his group and showed them comments from national prognosticators who declared the series all but over after two games.

The Nuggets responded by outscoring Minnesota by an average of 16.7 points per game since then.

“It took a lot of effort to get back into this series, but it was an effort that our guys were committed to,” Malone said. “I think that effort was a big part of why we won (Tuesday). We had 30 assists, so that says a lot about how well we moved the basketball. We got in transition and got easy buckets.

“We are obviously not satisfied. Now we have to go up to Minnesota and try to close it out, and that’s always the toughest game.”

A key factor could be the health of Timberwolves guard Mike Conley, who did not play on Tuesday because of soreness in his right Achilles tendon. Conley’s status is uncertain for Game 6.

Jokic leads the Nuggets with 28.8 points per game in the playoffs this season. Jamal Murray is next with 20.2 points per game in the postseason, while Michael Porter Jr. is averaging 17.4.

Edwards is averaging 30.6 points per game in the playoffs to lead the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns ranks second with 19.3 points and Gobert is averaging 12.6 points.