The Denver Nuggets were in desperate need of a win after returning home from a less than successful road trip. Enter the 3-13 San Antonio Spurs. The Nuggets were met with a challenge from the get go as Aaron Gordon was a late scratch for the game and Justin Holiday started in his place. It ended up not mattering as Nikola Jokic was the big story for Denver. He finishes an assist shy of a monster triple double with thirty-nine points, eleven rebounds and nine assists. Michael Porter Jr. was also fantastic as Denver took a lead early in the first quarter and never looked back. Victor Wembanyama had twenty-two points, eleven rebounds and six steals but battled foul trouble and the Spurs had no answers when he was on the bench. Nuggets win this one going away, 132-120.

Wembanyama scored the first seven points of the game for the Spurs in a game that was slow on the offensive end to start. Porter Jr. did what he could for the Nuggets offense as they were definitely cautious to test Wemby’s length. Denver started to find some rhythm on offense and interestingly it was from their non-Jokic starters. They forced turnovers for easy buckets and built a lead that got to nine at the halfway point of the quarter. The Spurs got some threes to keep Denver from growing a big lead but the ball was moving on the Nuggets side and they were knocking down shots. Jokic orchestrated the offense but Denver let San Antonio stay in the game with some turnovers and mediocre three point defense. Devin Vassell In particular took advantage from deep. DeAndre Jordan checked into the game to give Jokic a rest with the Nuggets up seven and his first shot was an airballed free throw. Porter played a great first quarter and set the tone for the bench unit to close it out. Denver kept in front but once again couldn’t pull away. After one they led 39-35.

Porter opened the second quarter with a nifty dribble pull-up three and Julian Strawther got a steal and drew a second foul on Wembanyama. Popovich successfully challenged the foul though and it was overturned. That worked out well for San Antonio as Wemby was causing problems on both ends of the court for Denver. Luckily, Peyton Watson was aggressive to the rim and got the second foul on Wembanyama shortly thereafter forcing him to check out. Jordan took advantage of the lack of size inside for San Antonio and led a run for Denver. A Strawther three pushed Denver’s lead into double digits with just over half the quarter left to play. After that Jokic was back in and he went to work overpowering Zach Collins and Charles Bassey. The lead ballooned to eighteen and San Antonio took a timeout. Wembanyama came back in and forced a couple turnovers to stop the bleeding for teh Spurs. They got on a run with the quarter winding down and pushed Denver’s lead down to thirteen when Wemby finished a ridiculous alley-oop with twenty-five seconds to go. Jokic beat him in the post to close out the half and Denver lead 72-60.

San Antonio started the third quarter strong and quickly got Denver’s lead back into single digits with Wembanyama once again wreaking havoc on both ends of the court. Denver responded, Reggie Jackson got hot and he lead a run to make sure Denver stayed in front and push the lead into double digits again. The Spurs went cold while Denver kept cooking and midway through the quarter the Nuggets lead was nineteen. Jokic ran with the bench group after that and it was good old fashioned Nuggets basketball with cuts, dimes and Jokic doing whatever the team needs. He checked out with the Nuggets leading by over twenty and you wondered if that might end up being it for Joker’s night. The bench played strong to close out the quarter, Strawther went toe to toe on a Wembanyama poster attempt and lived to tell about it. After three the Nuggets were up big, 107-84.

Watson opened the fourth quarter with a monster jam on one end and then a huge block on the other. Porter followed with a pretty and-one but then the Nuggets offense slowed down some. With the offense stalling Jokic checked back in even though Denver led by twenty-four points. He got things going again but San Antonio was also finding some success on offense. The game slowed down and Denver went cold again. San Antonio meanwhile attacked the basket and got some easy ones. Denver’s lead was down to sixteen with just under half the quarter remaining. Denver kept their starters in while San Antonio was in to their bench but the Spurs were still hanging tough and not letting Denver’s lead grow again. They got it down to thirteen with three minutes remaining. Jokic knocked down a floater, KCP hit a couple free throws and Michael Malone emptied the bench. It got a bit interesting with the reserves playing if you were betting on the over/under, but ultimately the Nuggets closed it out 132-120.

Best matchup: Michael Porter Jr. vs Victor Wembanyama

Nov 26, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) controls the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) guards in the first quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With Gordon out, guarding Wembanyama fell mostly on the shoulders of Porter Jr. and you couldn’t have asked for much more from him on that end. Wemby ends up with twenty-two points but there’s only so much anyone can do against a guy of his size and talent. Porter was at least able to make if difficult for him to rise up and shoot and he also played a role in getting Wemby into foul trouble. On the other end it was one of Mike’s best performances of the year. He carried the load of being the bench stagger starter with Gordon out and the Nuggets got their best night from the reserve group in a long time. Mike shot it well from three (3 for 7) and had a very efficient night scoring the ball on his way to a twenty-five point, seven rebound game.

The bench unit didn’t see too much change

Once again with Gordon out, the changes Michael Malone alluded to after last game didn’t really take place at first. Holiday started so the bench group more or less stayed the same. However, Zeke Nnaji picked up two quick fouls and didn’t see the court for the rest of the night. In his place Jordan played a good game. Six points and six boards in twelve minutes is about as perfect of a DeAndre game as you can hope for and he was also helpful in battling Wemby’s length. Time will tell if DJ is going to start seeing minutes over Zeke on a regular basis but for tonight at least that move paid off. You also have to wonder what happens with Watson once Gordon gets healthy. With Holiday starting it may mean he’s jumped ahead of Peyton in the rotation and once Gordon is back one of those two guys is probably not getting mintues despite both having strong games tonight.

AG’s injury cancels the thing to bet

We were hoping for a Gordon block tonight on our thing to bet but it was cancelled with his late scratch. Gordon is battling a heel strain and that may be at least some of the explanation as to why he had such a poor performance in Denver’s previous game. Hopefully he can get back soon. Holiday and Watson did a good job tonight in the four spot but as we’ve seen with Jamal Murray’s injury losing a starter and testing Denver’s depth is dangerous territory.