MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves’ dominant defense that Anthony Edwards took credit for in his team’s 115-70 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday. His offense wasn’t up to scratch either, after Edwards led all scorers with 27 points and helped the Wolves outscore Denver by 43 points in his 34 minutes on the court.

No, according to Edwards, it was the 36-year-old Minnesota guard’s mere presence that made the difference in the Wolves’ success in snapping a three-game losing streak in the Western Conference semifinals to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

“We got Mike Conley back,” Edwards said. “That was him.”

Conley, a 17-year veteran, missed Game 5 on Tuesday with a right Achilles tendon injury. The Nuggets defense responded by attacking Edwards with doubles all night, and the Wolves missed Conley’s ability to balance the court.

“Obviously I wanted to play the last game,” Conley said. “I couldn’t move at all. Tonight it was a no-brainer. I was going to try to find a way. We are only better when we are a complete team.”

Conley scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds, and his impact was not amplified by Minnesota’s ability to deny Denver a chance to tackle Edwards.

Edwards struggled with 18 points on 5-for-15 shooting and four turnovers in game five. He had a season-high 102 touches, according to Second Spectrum, and shouldered much of the offensive load for a Minnesota team that was starting to sputter against the defending champions.

With Conley back in the lineup, Edwards’ touches were cut to 64 in Game 6, and he was much more efficient, shooting 8-for-17 and committing just one turnover.

“Mike means everything to us,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “Unbelievable next to Anthony in terms of being able to set him up, play behind him, be in his ear all the time. Smart defender. Everything you want in an experienced, veteran point guard and the fact that he doesn’t have to deal with it every time, that alone helps us.” “We missed him so much that night.”

In the previous three games, the Wolves have lacked the type of lockdown defense that carried them to a 2-0 lead to open the series. The coaching staff wanted to remind them of what they could do and showed the players a video of their most notable defensive moments before tip-off.

“It was like some kind of promotional video,” said Wolves forward Jaden McDaniels, who scored 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal Thursday. “He had a good impact on us. Just showed that we can compete with these guys. We’ve done it before.”

The defensive performance that followed was astonishing. The Wolves held Denver to 30.2% shooting overall, including 19.4% from 3. They won the rebound battle 62-43, won the turnover battle 12-6 and scored 19 points off those turnovers. The Nuggets’ 70 points were a season low, including the regular season and playoffs, 10 fewer than Denver’s previous low when the Wolves beat them in Game 2. The 45-point margin of victory was the second largest in the NBA. History by a team facing elimination in a postseason game.

“I think we shouldn’t (forget this loss),” Nuggets star Nikola Jokic said. “I think we need to (let it) sink in. It’s a huge loss. They destroyed us, and you have to learn from it.”

The Wolves limited Jokic to 22 points and two assists after he had 40 and 13 in Game 5, and they held Jamal Murray to 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting after he had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting in Game 5.

Karl-Anthony Towns (10 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists) was the primary defender against Jokic, and Edwards took it upon himself to pursue Murray.

“I want to be the best player on both sides of the ball in the NBA,” Edwards said. “It’s something I’ve been working on. It all comes with staying in shape. … I was never tired of chasing him down and following him everywhere he went and contesting every shot he made. He’s a great player, man.” “I feel like I did a good job tonight.”

The Wolves head into Game 7 on Sunday with a chance to reach the conference finals for the first time in 20 years.

“They’re the defending champions, so it’s going to be very tough,” Edwards said. “They’re at home. They’re in bed. Their fans are crazy. It’s going to be so loud. But I feel like as a competitor, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. … I’m so happy and I’m ready to play it.”

The Nuggets appear to be ready as well.

“It’s all about mindset now,” Murray said. “All that is behind us, all those games we’re talking about are behind us. Now it’s only Sunday, who’s going to win those 48 minutes and how are we going to do it?”

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.


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