NBA Playoffs: Minnesota knocks out champion Nuggets, Pacers finish off Knicks

Sunday marked the first time in NBA history that two visiting teams won a Game 7 in the same day in NBA postseason history.

(AFP / VOZ MEDIA) The Minnesota Timberwolves eliminated Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, the defending NBA champions, this Sunday, and the Indiana Pacers ousted the New York Knicks in decisive games in their respective conference semifinals.

Sunday marked the first time in NBA history that two visiting teams won a Game 7 in the same day in NBA postseason history.

In their first Western Conference Finals since 2004, the Timberwolves will face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

The Pacers will face the Boston Celtics in the East.

The big surprise of the day took place at the Ball Arena in Denver, where the Nuggets allowed a historic comeback by the young Timberwolves, ultimately falling 98-90 as they defended the first title in franchise history.

Minnesota, which was down 38-53 at halftime, is the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points in a Game 7.

Dominican-American center Karl-Anthony Towns, with 23 points and 12 rebounds, was bright spot of the night for the visitors, with an erratic shooting night from young star Anthony Edwards (16 points on 25% shooting).

"For me, being here nine years, I've seen everything and seen it all. ... But to be here this year with these guys, this team, it's just super special," said Towns, leader of one of the five franchises that have never reached the NBA Finals.

'Everybody wants to beat us'

For the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic, recent winner of his third MVP award, scored 34 points, 19 rebounds and 7 assists, and Canadian point guard Jamal Murray scored another 35 points.

The rest of his teammates, however, had a disastrous performance, without any exceeding 7 points.

The home team extended their lead to 20 points (58-38) before the Timberwolves began a frenetic comeback with the awakening of Edwards and a strong contribution of forward Jaden McDaniels (23 points).

Taking advantage of the fatigue of Jokic and Murray, the Timberwolves made progress until they took the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and remained in the lead until the end.

With this disconcerting defeat, the Nuggets said goodbye to the goal of being the first to repeat the title since the Warriors in 2017 and 2018.

Since 2020, no defending champion has made it past the second round of the playoffs.

"The teams are more hungry, better, [more] talented than last year. ... Everybody gets better. Everybody wants to beat us," said Jokic.

"I mean, I think they're built to beat us. Just look at their roster. They have basically two All-Stars, two probably first-team defensive players. Mike Conley is the most underrated player in the NBA, probably," conceded the Serbian star.

Indiana storms MSG

With a record offense, the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks 130-109 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in the last decade.

From the hand of its stars Tyrese Haliburton (26 points) and Pascal Siakam (20), the Pacers solidified themselves as the Cinderella of these playoffs by winning at the iconic Madison Square Garden thanks to a 67.1% field goal percentage, the best mark ever by a team in a postseason game.

Indiana's victory was a painful end to the Knicks' hopes of reaching the East Finals for the first time in 24 years.

New York, which had already failed in an opportunity to advance in Game 6 on Friday, had a disappointing performance by its leader, Jalen Brunson.

The All-Star point guard was limited to 17 points and was unable to play in the fourth quarter after suffering a fracture in his left hand.

Brunson's departure was the final straw for a team hampered by injuries all season and that fought in the playoffs without its other All-Star, Julius Randle.

The monumental performance by guard Donte DiVincenzo, with 37 points and 9 3-pointers, was not enough against the Pacers' offensive display, which started with a beautiful first half in which they scored 70 points.

The Knicks, who were down by 22 points, woke up MSG in the third quarter by getting within 6 points, 73-67, but Indiana did not lose its nerve and quickly brought the distance back to double digits.

As the sixth seed in the East, Indiana will face the favorites Boston Celtics, the team with the best regular season record in the NBA, starting Tuesday.