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Nuggets respond to challenge, show fight as defending champs: ‘Guys answered the bell’

Nuggets respond to challenge, show fight as defending champs: 'Guys answered the bell'

MINNEAPOLIS โ€” The Denver Nuggets broke through and won the NBA championship last year in large part due to being hungrier than every opponent, realizing these opportunities are scant.

They canโ€™t replicate that singular feeling, but what every champion acquires through triumph is almost an arrogance, a stubbornness and an unwillingness to fold under adverse circumstances.

Perhaps it was that championship arrogance that kicked in when the Nuggets jumped on the plane to Minneapolis after dropping two home games in stunning fashion, having to sit in their own funk for four days, repeatedly having their worthiness challenged by their coach and being doubted by the basketball world.

It took a while, but the champs finally showed their form Friday inside an electric and party-filled Target Center, delivering a definitive shot across the bow of the Minnesota Timberwolves with a resounding 117-90 win.

That makes three wins in this series for the road teams in three games, and should that trend continue Sunday, the Nuggets will have reclaimed home-court advantage. The prospect of that looked bleak following Mondayโ€™s embarrassment, where the hungry Timberwolves attacked the Nuggets as if they were dinner.

The Nuggets produced their best performance of the postseason, in an atmosphere that called for it since this was the biggest game in Minneapolis in 20 years.

Jamal Murray is probably the picture of Nuggets defiance. Heโ€™s never made an All-Star Game and wears it. A few years ago, well before becoming a champion, he so incensed Kyrie Irving in going after a 50-point game Irving tossed the ball into the stands to prevent Murray from having the gameball.

Being defiant as a basketball adolescent can be viewed as innocent, but when youโ€™re a champion, visiting crowds want your blood โ€” especially when youโ€™re not suspended. Murray knew he had to respond after he threw a heat pack that landed on the floor in Game 2, which resulted in a hefty fine but no other disciplinary action.

Murray took his new lease on life and gave the Nuggets an extra lifeline, taking the four days of rest on his injured calf and using it to his advantage.

He popped across the floor, took the Public Enemy boos from the crowd and looked like the best version of himself, scoring 24 with five assists and four rebounds. Nikola Jokiฤ‡ will hoist his third MVP trophy to the crowd on Tuesday in a Game 5, and rightfully so, but the Nuggets canโ€™t afford to solely rely on him for inspiration and…

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