The Denver Nuggets came home following their first win in San Antonio since 2012 and did what they’ve done all season long: took care of business. In a well balanced, classic Nuggets-style victory, Denver completely dismantled anything the Spurs tried to throw at them, culminating in a masterful 108-90 victory on Tuesday night.
Jamal Murray continued his revenge tour with 23 points, and Nikola Jokic flirted with a triple-double in his 33 minutes of play. Denver’s clamp on San Antonio’s offense held firm as the Spurs shot just 41% from the field and 29% from three.
For the first time this series the Nuggets came out ready to play right from tipoff. Aided by the hot shooting from Game 4, Denver got off to a scorching start, going 5-12 from three in a well-balanced attack. Gary Harris looked phenomenal early on both ends of the court, helping the Nuggets rattle off a 14-2 run to force a quick Pop timeout. DeRozan and Aldridge really struggled to get anything going, and Harris shut out Derrick White almost entirey
The lineup to start the second quarter was questionable (Craig + Bench), and the Spurs were slowly able to chip away at the lead thanks to a stagnant Nuggets offense. Nikola Jokic was promptly subbed back in and that changed. Will Barton entered the game and put up a crafty 7 points, but late in the quarter it was the Jokic-Murray two-man game that really put Denver in control.
Jokic hit Murray on a beautiful give-and-go, and also found Harris on some nice backdoor cuts for easy lay ins. The Joker put up seven assists in the first half and the Nuggets were wheeling and dealing. Murray and Harris had 13 apiece and Denver led 53-42 at the half.
Millsap and Murray came out in attack mode to start the third quarter - four made free throws and a pair of three-pointers put the Nuggets up by 20. Denver continued the offensive onslaught by making nearly every shot and drawing fouls on other. The Spurs, on the other hand, were unable to get anything going up until the latter portion of the third when they went on a little 10-0 run to bring San Antonio within 20.
Jokic responed with two three’s of his own and squashed any hope of a comeback. Denver led 85-63 after three.
Malik Beasley drained a three to start the fourth, prompting a signature Pop timeout just 22 seconds into the quarter. The rest of the game was garbage time. Will Barton was able to regain some confidence, Monte Morris hit some shots and there was even a Juancho Hernangomez sighting. The Spurs scrubs got some burn and sorta made things interesting, but in the end Denver put them away.
First Quarter Victory - Check. One of the interesting aspects of the playoffs has been seeing Denver’s growth at overcoming weaknesses as the series goes on. Among other things, the Nuggets have had to adjust schematically on defense, maximize lineups, learn to hit shots and overcome playoff nerves. The last remaining bugaboo was to get a solid start in the first quarter, as Denver has had to play from behind in each of the four previous games. Tonight the Nuggets took the lead in the first and never looked back. Check that off the list.
Gary Harris is officially back. Jokic did Jokic things and Jamal Murray shined tonight, but Garris has continued to be a low-key key contributor in this series. Each consecutive game he has looked more and more in form offensively but it wasn’t until he got paired against Derrick White in Game 4 that his true impact as a two-way player was fully evident. That dominance continued into Game 5. White was completely shut down and didn’t have any positive impact on the game until garbage time in the fourth quarter. Without a third scorer after DeRozan and Aldridge, the Spurs have failed to make any leeway on offense. As a cherry on top, Harris shot 3-5 from deep and finished with 15 points.
Denver has all the momentum heading into Game 6. The playoffs are a beautiful thing. Scroll back through social media during the early goings of the series and you’d think the Nuggets were getting swept and would never score a basket ever again. Now, any indication of Denver being a fraudulent team has been completely obliterated. Not only have the Nuggets won the last two games, but have done so in such a dominant fashion that it has to be demoralizing for San Antonio.
Denver has a stranglehold on the series now. Game 6 is on Thursday night. If they keep playing Denver Nuggets basketball like they have for the last 7 quarters, it’ll be a wrap.