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Recap: Reigning MVP Jokic immaculate in home opener vs Spurs

Nikola Jokic was great in the Nuggets’ home opener as the Nuggets improve to 2-0 in win over the Spurs

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Nikola Jokic was immaculate in this game. He finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists. He was the reason the Nuggets won 102-96 against the Spurs. Will Barton pitched in with 12 of his own, and Monte contributed 13. Michael Porter Jr struggled scoring; only having 7 points on 3/10 shooting, but he hustled on defense and was good outside of his shooting. Keldon Johnson was the best player on the Spurs with 27 points on 12/18 shooting.

First Quarter

Early on, it was all Keldon Johnson for the Spurs. He scored their first 7 points on 3/3 shooting from the field. He also hit a free throw. Will Barton and Nikola Jokic got the show started for the Nuggets with a 3 from Barton and a pair from the charity stripe from Jokic. Quite frankly, nothing was going right for the Nuggets; they started 1/6 from the field. Jakob Poetl did pick up two early fouls though which lead to him sitting. After that the Spurs’ defense got a lot worse and MPJ and AG got a couple of baskets inside leading to the Spurs taking a timeout. The Nuggets’ defense also held up forcing 4 straight misses after Keldon’s outburst. A couple of buckets were traded back and forth out of the timeout; and more than a couple of misses were too. Facu and PJ were the first subs of the bench. Jokic hit a 3 and a easy bunny off of an Aaron Gordon pass. Facu then scored on the inside as well off a nice move. As Adam Mares would say; the ball was popping. The Nuggets had 6 assists on their first 8 baskets. The Spurs took a timeout leaving the score at 22-16 with the Nuggets leading. After that Malone subbed in the full bench unit, again with no Bones. Initially, it seemed like they would give up the lead, but they strung together a nice run; topped off by a Jamychal Green detonation. The first frame would conclude with the Nuggets up 26-22.

Second Quarter

This quarter started with Jamychal Green and Facu continuing their solid play. Green hit a 3, Facu had a block(!) and then they both double teamed Dejounte Murray to force a turnover. Then they teamed up to give Facu an easy layup off a Green dime. The bench held onto the lead. Then the Spurs called a timeout; Nuggets up 36-29, the bench was actually a positive. PJ then hit a 3, continuing his good shooting to start the year. Jokic then checked back in and immediately scored. Shortly after the starters checking in. They exchanged baskets with the Spurs, but the Spurs were slowly chipping the lead down, with a Lonnie Walker free throw taking the lead down to just 4 (43-39). The Spurs were helped by the fact that off 10 turnovers; the Nuggets only scored 2 points. MPJ was doing fine defensively, but was shooting just 1/6 from the field and 0/3 from 3. If the Nuggets wanted to put this away, they’d need him to step up. The rest of the quarter followed patterns that had been seen previous, Keldon Johnson gave Aaron Gordon a lot of issues; scoring 18 points on 8/10 shooting from the field. Monte and Barton chipped in a couple of 3s to keep Denver’s lead, but it was waning. 53-50 going into half Nuggets lead.

Third Quarter

To start the second half, Jokic tossed a lob up to AG. Then the Spurs went on a 9-0 run to take a 4 point lead with Dejounte Murray scoring 4 of those points to join Keldon Johnson as the second Spur in double digit scoring. Not ideal. The Nuggets then stormed back to tie the game at 63 a piece, highlighted by a coast to coast layup by Jokic. MPJ then made his second shot of the night off a drive and layup. Joker got a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds mid way through the third quarter, and at this points the Nuggets were up by 3. MPJ was not having a great shooting night, but he was still engaged which is an improvement on last year. MPJ found himself in foul trouble with 4 fouls, so Malone subbed in PJ. After a nice drive from Barton, a 3 from Jokic, and a full court dime to Facu from Jokic; the Nuggets found themselves back up by 10 with a score of 76-66. Their biggest lead of the night. Barton had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists on 5/11 shooting. Just continuing to be a star role player. Jokic was also very impressive with 22 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals in just 25 minutes midway through the third. Austin Rivers took a nasty tumble, but was ultimately fine and didn’t miss any time. The Nuggets did a good job getting in the cookie jar of the Spurs; not always resulting in turnovers but annoying them none the less. As the final frame dawned, the Nuggets took a 79-70 lead into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

The Nuggets started the quarter with their bench unit having a lob from PJ to Jamychal. Then Austin Rivers pitched in with a nice finger roll. They were up 11, but then Jakob Poetl and Keldon Johnson (who just won’t go away) put in a 6-0 run to push the lead to only 5. The Nuggets called a timeout; score 83-78. Malone kept the bench in, Facu missed a shot then fouled Derrick White. This lead to the lead being down to only 3. Rivers and PJ missed a 3 each, but Facu made a layup. So did Poetl though, so it was still only a 3 point game. It was at this point Malone subbed the starters minus AG in. Jokic scored a couple of buckets, and Jeff Green did too. After a Devin Vassell trip to the line, AG got subbed in. MPJ then hit his first three of the night. He had been doing good on the little things, but when the Nuggets needed a shot, he hit it; putting them up 9. Nuggets lead 94-85 with just 4 minutes to go. Derrick White hit a duo of free throws, but Jokic the reigning MVP responded with a hook shot over Jakob Poetl. Spurs timeout, and Nuggets still up 9 with 3 and a half minutes left of run. Right after the timeout Nuggets legend Doug McDermott hit a corner 3 to cut the lead to 6. However, it was too little too late as Nikola Jokic scored 3 times in the last 3 minutes. Nuggets win 102-96 to remain undefeated.