Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray out against Timberwolves, missing 4th straight game

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) drives past New York Knicks guard Miles McBride in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray has been ruled out for the Denver Nuggets' showdown against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night as he continues to deal with a sprained left ankle and a swollen right knee.

The winner will hold the top seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Minnesota and Oklahoma City, both 50-22, began the night a half game behind the Nuggets (51-22).

Coach Michael Malone said Murray was improving but “he's just not ready to go out there and compete at the level that we need him to.”

Malone hinted that Murray might also miss the Nuggets' Sunday matinee against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but said he wasn't worried that his star point guard would be out for much longer.

“I do think he will be back on the court before the playoffs start” in mid-April, Malone said.

Murray's absence was sorely felt by the Nuggets in their 104-97 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, only their third loss in 18 games since the All-Star break.

The Timberwolves have been without star Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) but Anthony Edwards (lower back spasms) was expected to play against the Nuggets.