The Denver Nuggets continued their winning ways as they take two from the Spurs in three days. It was closer than the Nuggets would have liked with sloppy play on both ends, but clutch free throw shooting sealed it late. Denver committed 18 turnovers for 30 Spurs points. Nikola Jokic secured another triple double as he put up 26 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds. Denver won their eighth straight game which is the longest win streak in eight years
Denver began the game with confident shooting early as Jokic sank an open three to put the Nuggets on the board. The Spurs answered with a dunk from Jakob Poeltl, but the Nuggets kept shooting as MPJ hit a mid range jumper followed by an Aaron Gordon three for the 8-2 lead. Keldon Johnson answered the Nuggets run with a couple nice drives past Nugget defenders including an effective euro step.
Facu brought intense defensive energy in the 1st quarter as he kept pestering Spurs guards. Not only was he bringing it on defense, but he was facilitating for others on offense as well. He threw his patented one arm sling shot to Porter Jr. for a wide open three which influenced a spurs timeout. Nuggets led 15-10 and were 9-11 from the field.
Denver’s great ball movement showed as the Spurs tried to double Jokic late, so he played hot potato with PJ Dozier for an open three. Nuggets assisted on all 8 of their field goals to the 3:00 mark in the first quarter. The Spurs did not seem to get the memo that Jokic has eyes in the back of his head, so they kept showing the late double team, but Jokic kept kicking it out to open three point shooters. Towards the end of the 1st quarter, Jokic tallied his 500th steal leading to a Millsap layup in transition.
Denver began the quarter rebounding a Lonnie Walker miss out to Will Barton for a three. At that point, the Nuggets were 7-11 from deep extending their lead 39-26. Denver’s defensive energy continued throughout the bench as PJ stifled a Spurs layup leading to a Barton layup plus the foul. The Nuggets seemed to get out in transition any time they could, and certainly it helped that San Antonio was missing shots.
Possibly the most exciting part of the game came off a Morris-McGee screen and roll where JaVale absolutely postered two Spurs. The crowd erupted and was rewarded again with a Campazzo three to extend the lead to 16. The Spurs kept fighting as Drew Eubanks hit a nice Kareem sky hook for two. This seemed to ignite the Spurs as they made a concerted effort to drive into the paint, dishing off to others, and drawing fouls.
Nikola Jokic remained at odds with the referees as he committed a technical foul following a Nuggets turnover. DeMar Derozen was the early catalyst for the Spurs as he assisted Lonnie Walker to cut the score down to 54-44. San Antonio seemed to ride their momentum after the Jokic technical, but Jokic responded with an assist and a floating layup after a Denver timeout. In the final seconds of the first half, Michael Porter Jr. rode high into the sky for a great rebound which lead to a Morris three at the other end. The Spurs would answer with a last second buzzer beating three from Dejounte Murray.
The Nugget’s leading scorers at the half were MPJ and Jokic tied with 12 points, while DeRozan led the Spurs with 11. And yes, once again, Nikola Jokic with zero free throw attempts.
San Antonio began the second half with a sloppy possession, but Denver gifted them with a Poeltl layup. Aaron Gordon then showed his post presence as he dropped a hook shot on Keldon Johnson. Spurs ramped up their defensive intensity as they picked off a Jokic pass leading to a Dejounte Murray layup and a foul to cut the lead to eight. Denver’s defensive effort was not the same to start the second half as Murray scored seven straight for the Spurs. San Antonio was relentless getting to the rim forcing a Nugget timeout.
Following the timeout, Jokic missed a floater, but Facu picked him up at the other end taking a defensive charge leading to a Will Barton drive and score for two. Derrick White would respond with a three for his ninth point, and Rudy Gay followed with a three of his own cutting the Denver lead to six. Jokic finally got his first free throw attempts of the game at the 5:34 mark in the 3rd in which he sank both.
PJ Dozier stopped a Spurs 14-6 run with an aggressive driving layup for two and a foul but he would miss the free throw. Denver’s interior defense kept getting dismantled as it seemed like the Spurs either drew a foul or scored a layup nearly every time down the floor. The Nuggets were struggling to score, but a Porter cut for a layup plus the foul would ignite some offensive energy. PJ Dozier really helped the Nuggets halt the Spurs momentum as he was playing effective defense and was cutting for easy layups. Monte Morris also aided some energy as he hit two threes and a driving layup to bring the Denver lead back up to thirteen.
The Nuggets ended the quarter with a 17-5 run for a 96-83 lead, and Jokic recorded another triple double as he had 20 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds to end the third.
Rudy Gay turned back the clock to his Memphis days as he began the 4th quarter with his 3rd three of the game. JaVale provided some energy to start the 4th. He had seven rebounds in seven minutes along with a nice block on Derrick White. Will Barton set the offensive tone with a couple driving layups to concern the Spurs interior defense. Gregg Popovich showed his genius as San Antonio went to a full court press leading to stagnant Denver offense and multiple turnovers forcing a timeout and an irate Michael Malone.
The Nugget lead was four at 100-96 when Barton followed the timeout with a three off a Jokic assist. Jokic then fouled Poeltl at the other end, and Poeltl rebounded his missed free throw for a crushing two points. Nikola responded by showing his flurry of post moves for a nice hook shot to bring the Nugget lead to eight at 111-103. Off a Porter rebound which secured his double-double, Jokic assisted to Morris for an open three pointer giving the Nuggets some breathing room.
Popovich’s timeout was an effective one as Derrick White hit a corner three, and Keldon Johnson scored on a driving layup cutting the Denver lead to six. It was nervous time at Ball Arena after White hit another three, but Morris responded by driving to the rim influencing a Poeltl goal tend. With thirty seconds to go, the score was 118-115 when White drove to the cup for another layup. The Spurs were forced to foul, so they sent a clutch free throw shooter in Will Barton to the line and he made both for a 120-117 lead. Following the timeout, Barton fouled White and sent him to the line where he hit both free throws. The fouling game continued sending Porter Jr. to the line for one made free throw, and off the miss San Antonio missed their layup in transition and failed to secure the offensive rebound.
Nuggets win 121-119. Their next game will be at 1:00 MST in Denver against Boston.
Points: Nikola Jokic - 26
Assists: Nikola Jokic - 14
Rebounds: Nikola Jokic - 13
Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic - 25 points, 14 assists, 13 rebounds, 2-2 from three, and 9-17 from the field