Nikola Jokic guides Nuggets to 3-2 edge on Wolves

Nikola Jokic celebrated his third MVP trophy ceremony by scoring 40 points and handing out 13 assists as the host Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97 on Tuesday in Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal series.

Aaron Gordon logged 18 points and 10 rebounds while Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points apiece for Denver, which leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 after dropping the first two at home.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.

Minnesota All-Star guard Anthony Edwards struggled from the field, finishing 5-for-15 and scoring 18 points. He added nine assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and Rudy Gobert amassed 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without point guard Mike Conley (right Achilles soreness). Nickeil Alexander-Walker moved into the starting lineup and scored 14 points.

Jokic received his MVP trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver before tip-off, then scored 12 points in the first quarter and seven in the second to stake Denver to a 50-44 halftime lead.

Edwards attempted just eight shots in the first half, hitting only one, and he didn’t take a shot in the first seven-plus minutes of the third quarter. After the Nuggets grabbed a 76-63 lead, he got aggressive, hitting a layup and converting a three-point play to quickly cut the deficit to eight points.

Jokic took over the rest for the remainder of the quarter, banking in a hook shot, converting a pair of three-point plays and making two more free throws to put Denver ahead 88-74 heading into the fourth.

Jokic finished the third with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Gordon hit the first basket of the fourth before the Timberwolves scored six quick points to cut the gap to 90-80 and force a timeout. Caldwell-Pope sank two corner 3-pointers and Murray stole the ball from Edwards and fed Jokic for a dunk and a 98-80 lead with 7:12 left.

Minnesota made a last push to get within 101-90, but Murray hit three shots in the final minutes to seal the win.

Christian Braun scored 10 points off the bench for Denver.