Jokic finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists, while Wilson Chandler had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Nuggets limited the Spurs to just 19 points in the fourth quarter, going on a 15-3 run to put the game out of reach.
Former Nugget Joffrey Lauvergne had one of the best games of his career for the Spurs, picking up a 26 point, 12 rebound double-double off the bench. With no LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay, and with Manu Ginobili going to the locker room early, the Spurs just didn’t have the horses to keep pace with the Nuggets until the final buzzer.
Jamal Murray was questionable to start the game with a chest injury of some sort, but felt good enough to go during warmups and was in the starting lineup. The two teams traded buckets back and forth to start the game, with Davis “Matt Bonner” Bertans making a few plays, but the Nuggets defense was giving the Spurs anything they wanted. Gary Harris had a really athletic reverse finish, wowing the crowd. Then Jokic had a block on Gasol, taking advantage of a player he can guard without having to jump, and found Barton in transition for a 3-pointer that caused Gregg Popovich to call timeout.
Joffrey Lauvergne made his return to Pepsi Center after the timeout, as the Spurs started bringing in some of their reserves early, likely due to the fact they played last night in Salt Lake City. Jamal Murray took advantage of a Patty Mills flop, stepping back for a 3-pointer to hit 10 points in the game. The Nuggets continued to let the Spurs take every shot they wanted after the reserves checked in, with San Antonio making 14 of their 21 field goal attempts in the quarter. The Nuggets did do a good job going to the rim, and made 6 of their 7 free throw attempts to help them be down by just two points, 32-30 at the end of the first.
Trey Lyles had a sweet drive and one-handed dunk in the second quarter, taking advantage of the Spurs “none of our players can jump that high” defense. Dejounte Murray hit his fifth midrange jumper of the game, giving the Spurs a 44-35 lead. Murray got up high to block a Pau Gasol shot, but was called for a foul, and the Spaniard’s free throws got San Antonio to 50 points. Wilson Chandler had a nice block, triggering a fast break that resulted in an easy bucket for Will Barton.
Jokic had a sweet dime in transition to Barton for a dunk, and followed it up with a nifty pass to Chandler under the rim for an easy layup. They got out and ran after a made basket, with Barton tossing the ball up to Chandler for an easy alley-oop. Jokic was able to grab an offensive rebound after Chandler airballed a 3-pointer, getting fouled with two seconds and splitting the two shots to draw the Nuggets within three points at the half.
The Nuggets started the second half with a quick 8-2 run, taking a 66-63 lead while continuing to try to push the pace on offense. Gary Harris had a nice drive, that you can see right here:
Jokic was aggressive in the post, getting a nice bucket after Lauvergne flopped on a little six-foot flip shot. That basket got Jokic in a groove, and he hit Murray and Chandler for the Nuggets next two baskets. Lauvergne scored the next six point in the game though, personally giving the Spurs a 81-79 lead with 3:22 left in the third quarter. The Spurs have been going with hockey-style rotations, trying to combat playing at altitude.
The refs called Patty Mills for an offensive foul after he tackled Gary Harris trying to set a screen, but they swallowed their whistles on the other end when Harris was fouled on a layup. The Nuggets had to call timeout after Patty Mills had back-to-back field goals, stretching the Spurs lead to seven points. Thankfully, Lyles was able to get fouled on a drive by Lauvergne, and pulled Denver within three points at the end of the third quarter.
The Nuggets opened the fourth will Will Barton playing PF for the Nuggets, in a lineup with Murray-Devin Harris-Beasley-Lyles. Lyles took advantage of Bertans and Lauvergne at center, aggressively driving into the paint for shots at the rim. Malik Beasley ran the court in transition, missed his layup, but Barton followed up with a dunk to give Denver the lead. Devin Harris hit a 3-pointer after a Spurs timeout, and it was 104-100 with about 7 and a half minutes to go. Jokic checked back in the game after Bryn Forbes was fouled, and it was officially about to go down.
The Nuggets were up by four points when Jokic checked in, 106-102. After the Serbian horse master came back on the court? Oh yeah, that’s a 8-1 run that extended the Nuggets run to 15-3, and it was 114-103 with Popovich storming onto the court to call a timeout with 3:17 left in the game.
All the Nuggets needed to do after a Gary Harris 3-pointer that made the score 117-103 was milk the clock and avoid turnovers, but they weren’t able to score again the rest of the game. Luckily, the Spurs couldn’t close the gap, and the Nuggets picked up a win over the Spurs, 117-109. It’s just the second win over the Spurs for Coach Malone - congrats, Coach!
We won, it’s late, and I’m tired. The Nuggets were able to get a few stops, a few transition buckets, and Jokic was great. It’s a victory.
Oh, and they’re sixth in the West now, because they have the tiebreaker over Portland, who has the same record at 31-26. There’s a chance the Nuggets could be fifth in the conference going into the All-Star break!