The Denver Nuggets faced the San Antonio Spurs to close out their five game road trip and had hopes to finish a perfect 5-0 on their travels. The Spurs had other ideas. In what was one of the more painful games to watch in recent memory, DeMar Derozan led San Antonio to victory and spoiled yet another superb performance from Nikola Jokic. Jamal Murray and DeJounte Murray did their parts as the Robins on their respective teams but for Denver there was little else to speak of, at least on the positive side. Nuggets win streak ends at five as they fall to San Antonio 119-109
The Nuggets got an early lead behind Will Barton and Gary Harris, Barton was driving to the basket with authority while Harris was vintage Harris, knocking down threes and cutting to the rim. Dejounte had the answer for the Spurs and kept things close. Keldon Johnson kept the momentum going for the Spurs who gained the lead around the midway point of the quarter. Jamal started getting aggressive after that to quickly take back the advantage for Denver. It was a bit of a three fest with the quarter winding down. Each team was knocking them down and trading the lead back and forth. The Nuggets went cold to close out the quarter while the Spurs were still red hot from three. They grabbed a seven point lead after one.
Joker's first dime of the night was a beauty pic.twitter.com/5k9CCutz47— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 30, 2021
The Spurs bench kept on the pressure to open the second quarter. Michael Porter Jr was in but Denver wasn’t looking his way on offense and he was struggling on defense. Finally they started getting him the ball and to the surprise of no one he immediately buried two threes and got Denver back within five. Jokic checked back in but the play was sloppy and the Spurs lead grew again which prompted Malone to re-insert the rest of the starters. It didn’t change much in terms of the sloppiness, the Nuggets just couldn’t stop fouling. You could also tell Jokic was tired, every three caught front iron. Luckily San Antonio finally got cold so the lead dwindled despite the play from Denver not being very good. At the end of the half Denver was down 61-55.
DeRozan and Jokic dueled to open the second half while the Spurs kept growing their lead. Jokic took control after a timeout and sparked a 9-0 run to get back within two. San Antonio responded, finally starting to figure out Denver’s zone defense, and got the lead back to five to force Michael Malone into another timeout. Denver regrouped and got close again, but they just didn’t seem to be able to regain the lead. Probably because Murray and Porter kind of went into a chuck fest for a bit. It didn’t hurt with San Antonio icy cold from the field though. Finally Harris knocked down a three to tie the game at 81 with two minutes to go. It went back and forth down the stretch with DeRozan red hot. The Spurs clung to a one point lead going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter started the same way he game had gone so far: essentially an insult to the game of basketball on both ends by both teams. San Antonio kept in front but Jokic was keeping Denver in it with his scoring. Once again the Nuggets played terrible basketball and once again the Spurs grew their lead behind a 7-0 run and made Malone take a timeout. During that time out you could see Jamal trying to keep his hip loose after taking a hard fall a bit earlier. Jokic hit a three but you could tell the Nuggets were fading. San Antonio went on another run to push the lead to eleven with five minutes to go. Denver inexplicably decided to put Barton at the four and even though it was awful Malone stuck with it down the stretch. That was all the Spurs needed to put the nails in the coffin. They end up winning it going away. Nuggets lose 109 to 119.
Three Things I Noticed
Best matchup: Murray vs Murray
The Murray’s gave a good matchup tonight. DeJounte had a a complete game, giving the Nuggets problems on both ends. He ended up with twenty-six points and harassed the Nuggets relentlessly on defense. Meanwhile Jamal got off to a hot start and then cooled but still ended up with an efficient twenty points, seven assists and six rebounds. Hopefully Jamal’s hip doesn’t bother him too much in the coming week. He was able to return to the game but after the spill he took it’ll be no surprise if he’s quite stiff in the morning.
Main point: U-G-L-Y, Denver has no alibi
Hands down the worst performance of the season from the Nuggets. They were sloppy, they looked tired and they basically gave up at the end...including Malone. His rotations were abysmal tonight. He tried to dictate size in the first half by playing Isaiah Hartenstein next to JaMychal Green and Porter, which essentially left MPJ covering Murray on the other end (you can guess how that went). Then he let the Spurs dictate small ball in the fourth and went with Barton at power forward to close the game. You might as well wave the white flag. The one good idea Malone had in the fourth was to intentionally foul Jakob Poetl but he waited too late to do it so they only got one trip by Jakob to the free throw line. He missed both but, you’re never going to believe this, with Barton playing at the four Denver couldn’t secure the rebound. Just a terrible performance from top to bottom outside of Jokic and Murray. Oh, and Porter shot the ball just five times, #Awesome.
Closing thought: flush it
Once again I lost track of time and didn’t get my pick in for Plea’s Picks tonight but Spurs and the over was about as easy of a call as it gets. The Nuggets clearly are content with a 4-1 road trip and had zero interest in playing defense tonight. This loss you could see coming from a mile away. It was an abysmal game all around and I don’t think there’s much to be learned from it other than don’t get complacent and never play Barton at power forward again.