Jokic had 13 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, and the Nuggets had a balanced scoring attack, but couldn’t get enough points to defeat the Spurs once the clock ran out.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points for the Spurs, but the x-factor was Kyle Anderson, who took the Nuggets defenders to school on his way to 18 points on 12 shots.
Darrell Arthur got the start for the Nuggets, with Michael Malone going with the veteran, more defensively-skilled option at power forward with Mason Plumlee out of the lineup with a calf injury.
The Nuggets jumped out to a 8-4 lead after a Nikola Jokic 3-pointer, but the Spurs did some Spurs things and the two teams stayed even through the first six minutes of the quarter. Manu Ginobili checked in for the Spurs, and the bald-headed wizard started getting San Antonio points, driving for a reverse layup and a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Jokic had a beautiful dish to Lyles, ending a possession for the Nuggets that included what seemed like 100 offensive rebounds with an easy layup, giving him SIX assists in the first quarter.
The Nuggets had a nice 10-3 run in the beginning of the second quarter, with Malik Beasley slamming home a dunk and then following it up with a block on Patty Mills. Barton and Lyles had two 3-pointers in a row, and Mudiay finished off a pass from Craig, forcing Gregg Popovich to call timeout to fix his defense.
Whatever Popovich said, it worked, because Bryn Forbes stole a pass, and then the Spurs had blocks on three straight possessions to help them get back in the game. That propeled the Spurs on a 10-3 run of their own, as the Nuggets reserves ran out of gas before the starters could get back in the game. Torrey Craig had a couple nice plays, drawing the Nuggets within two, but the Spurs took advantage of Jokic in the pick and roll to get Aldridge a wide open dunk off a roll and Kyle Anderson an easy layup. The Spurs took a 60-55 lead into halftime, getting half of their points in the paint against a smaller, slower Nuggets defense, who have to deal with no Mason Plumlee on top of no Paul Millsap.
The Spurs made a concerted effort to attack Jokic on defense, and they were able to keep their small lead alive throughout the third quarter. While Jokic was giving it his all on defense, his shot wasn’t falling, and he checked out after six minutes looking like he’d been through the wringer. Jamal Murray blocked Anderson, and Harris was able to score in transition to tie the game at 68. Aldridge was called for a technical, disagreeing with the refs about not getting a foul call, and then was called for a shooting foul on a baseline drive by Murray.
Gary Harris starred as Gary Harris, stealing a Tony Parker pass and getting to the free throw line on the other end of the court, and the Nuggets were up 75-72. Jokic checked back in after getting treatment on his ankle, and lobbed in a hook shot over Aldridge.
Emmanuel Mudiay had six straight points for Denver, getting to the rim and scoring in the midrange to help keep pace with the Spurs as the two teams went back and forth. The Spurs got a little bit of space, and then took advantage of the Nuggets youth in the final minutes to grab a five point lead with about 90 seconds left. Patty Mills dribbled Murray into an Aldridge screen, and buried a triple, and then Aldridge blocked Craig after a sweet drive by Murray that lead to a Nuggets timeout.
Ginobili clanged home a funky looking runner with 36 seconds left, but the Nuggets needed just five seconds to get a 3-point attempt for Murray, which he buried to bring Denver within two points with 30 seconds remaining. The Nuggets forced a miss by Danny Green, got the defensive rebound, dribbled the ball down the court, scrambled the Spurs defense, only to have Will Barton’s 3-point attempt go in and out at the buzzer.