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Recap: Nuggets blown out by Spurs again

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On their 4th game in 5 nights, the Nuggets didn’t bring the effort and execution necessary to win.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets lost their fourth game in five nights tonight against the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 121-97. Jamal Murray scored 20 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to counter the onslaught the Spurs put up with multiple players. Nikola Jokic had his first bad game in a long time, and it showed in Denver’s overall performance on the floor.

With Danilo Gallinari out again, Wilson Chandler got the start, and Jameer Nelson started in place of Emmanuel Mudiay, who came off the bench. Nelson quickly made his presence felt with two three pointers in the first four minutes. Chandler also made his presence felt with some nice drives and a step back. Behind the three point line though, the shot just wasn’t falling initially. Nikola Jokic picked up his second foul at the 4:49 mark in the first quarter, bringing Jusuf Nurkic into the game early, who promptly picked up his first foul five seconds later. Nurkic did pick up a block later though. As the benches both filed in, the Spurs demonstrated their effective ball movement repeatedly, and the only reason Denver stayed in the game was Chandler picking up two threes. Finally, Jamal Murray entered the game and beat the buzzer on a contorted three point shot to close the deficit to 30-27 after one quarter.

Murray nearly made another incredible shot at the beginning of the second quarter, but the shot came after the buzzer. The story of the first half was Manu Ginobili using and abusing Mudiay. He hit his first five shots and accumulated 16 points, either blowing by the 20 year old or rising over the 6’5 guard. It was really painful to watch. Still, Murray continued to make some nice plays, helping to carry the Nuggets off the bench.

The Spurs went on a short run, prompting Michael Malone to reinsert Chandler and Jokic. Gregg Popovich responded by complaining to the referees after a hard screen, earning Jokic his third foul on the next possession. Nurkic came back in again, and he played reasonably well, even taking a ball coast-to-coast for a dunk in transition. The Nuggets might even have a lead at this point if their guards played defense, specifically, Nelson. It was appalling watching him try and check...well...anyone tonight. Fortunately, the damage was minimal, as the Nuggets went into halftime down 56-50.

Going into the third, Jokic made a poor decision and turned the ball over for an easy two, causing a quick timeout from Malone. He made it up by scoring the first seven points of the quarter for the Nuggets. Turns out, that would be their only seven points for awhile.

Jokic went on a turnover spree at this point, and Malone subbed in the full bench when no one could come to the rescue. It was at this point that the Spurs basically put the Nuggets in jail, keeping them at a distance of about 20 points throughout. Jamal Murray made some plays, and Nurkic showed some life, but the third quarter ended with a 91-72 advantage for San Antonio.

To start the fourth quarter, both teams traded baskets and some bad defense, but the Spurs accomplished this at a better rate. The Nuggets just looked inept at this point, unable to put together multiple stops in a row defensively. Mudiay continued to be the sieve, allowing the offensive player to separate from him consistently.

Malone then went to the Mudiay-Murray-Malik Beasley-Juancho Hernangomez-Johnny O’Bryant lineup at the 8:30 mark in the 4th quarter...so...yeah. O’Bryant hit a three pointer, so that was cool. Mike Miller came in for Mudiay soon after, and the best part of the game was seeing Murray and Beasley get buckets in garbage time. It was just that kind of night. Garbage time ensued, and the Nuggets lost this one 121-97.

Takeaways:

Lots of bad individual performances tonight. Nikola Jokic cannot pick up three fouls in a half. Ever. He’s too valuable, and he needs to stop it. He also got flustered in the third quarter and made a bunch of backbreaking mistakes. Will Barton had a poor game on both ends. Emmanuel Mudiay joined him. Jameer Nelson decided that defense wasn’t suiting him tonight, and Wilson Chandler also had turnover issues. The Spurs were getting under the skin of each player individually, and it hurt the Nuggets as a team.

Jusuf Nurkic had one of the few good performances. Boy was this a good sight to see. Nurkic came in due to early foul trouble for Nikola Jokic. All he did was quietly go about the floor and help keep the Nuggets within striking distance. He didn’t do anything amazing, but his line of nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block certainly beats a DNP-CD. Hopefully this gets Nurkic out of his mental tailspin.

Schedule loss. Fourth game in five nights with Danilo Gallinari and Darrell Arthur out, this was never going to be a good night. Jokic had a rare off night, and there was nobody to pick up the slack after that. The best thing the Nuggets can do is rest up and get ready for next game.