DeMar DeRozan had 24 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points, leading the Spurs to a win despite nearly coughing up the victory in the final minutes.
Jamal Murray had 25 points, with a scoring explosion in the final four minutes of the game to nearly single-handedly win the game for the Nuggets. Denver struggled mightily when Jokic wasn’t on the court, trailing by double digits for most of the game, beating themselves with turnovers and by missing open shots.
The Nuggets started off slow, missing their first couple of shots and giving up open looks to the Spurs. They scored a couple baskets, but continued to struggle with turnovers and missed shots. After a timeout, Jokic scored on a nice play, but the Spurs went at Will Barton on the other end to get a bucket. Aldrige took Jokic to class inside, stretching the lead to eight points - a bad stretch for the opening day starting lineup. Plumlee came in, and they got a few more looks on the offensive glass, but the offense continued to clang shots off the rim while the Spurs kept knocking shots in. The Spurs closed out the quarter strong, taking a 36-17 lead, with the Nuggets having one of their worst quarters of the season.
A man named Drew Eubanks made his presence known, getting a block at the end of the first quarter, then getting the ball to Marco Belinelli for a triple. Isaiah Thomas knocked in a triple of his own, but that only cut the lead to 16 points, and the Spurs scored on the next trip down the court. Jokic tipped in an offensive rebound, and Gregg Popovich called timeout, somehow frustrated with a 16-point lead. The Nuggets and Spurs went back and forth, but they couldn’t close the lead despite a couple stops on defense. Millsap gave the team some defensive energy, and they were able to cut the lead to 11 points after the veteran big flipped in a jumper. They battled and scrapped back to a 10 point deficit at half, locking in on defense and getting rebounds. They were ice cold in the first half from deep, shooting 3 for 16, with the starters going 2 for 9.
Murray started the third quarter with a triple, his second of the game, but his next attempt bounced off the rim and over the backboard. Jokic got his first 3-pointer of the game with a high-arcing rainbow from the top of the arc that splashed in. Denver was able to cut the lead to three points after a 3-pointer from Gary Harris, but five quick points by San Antonio lead to a Nuggets timeout. The timeout let the Spurs regroup, and they reeled off a 12-3 run and the lead stretched back to double digits. The bench rotated in, and they played with the same energy the starters did in the first quarter, letting San Antonio continue to grow the lead, with Rudy Gay whipping a nifty pass to Jakob Poeltl to push the lead to 14 points. While the team did well with Jokic on the court, once he left, things went downhill fast, and San Antonio had a 85-69 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Thomas got blocked on the first shot attempt in the fourth quarter for the Nuggets, and a short 5-0 run was ended by Derrick White making a 3-pointer. Beasley got to the free throw line after a strong drive, just the Nuggets fourth free throw of the game, and one of those came after a technical foul. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jokic and Millsap cut the lead to 12, but the Spurs were able to keep the lead in double digits down to the four minute mark. The Nuggets answered the call after the timeout, going on a 14-4 run, with back-to-back triples from Murray to cut the lead to eight points. Murray hit another couple 3-pointers, with a Barton triple in between, to cut the lead to one with about 50 seconds left. DeRozan missed a layup, but Murray missed a 3-pointer, but the officials had to review the play to determine possession.
Nuggets got the ball back, and Murray had a clean look from the free throw line, but couldn’t get his floater to fall. Rudy Gay and Paul Millsap couldn’t secure the rebound, but the ball went off Gay, and the Nuggets called timeout for the final shot of the game. Jokic got open, but the pass was a hair too late, and he fumbled the ball away trying to kick it out to the perimeter. Rudy Gay missed both his free throws, and the Nuggets had one more chance with 2.4 seconds remaining. Jokic inbounded the ball to Harris, but he had to pivot and fade away from Patty Mills, and the ball went in and out as the game clock read zeroes.
Stiffs Night Out, that’s what is on tap! Come watch the Nuggets play the Lakers on national television on Wednesday. We’ll be at Stoney’s Uptown, and the game starts at 8:30 PM MT. Be sure to come and have a good time while we hope and pray the Nuggets beat the Lakers.