The shots didn't fall early on and the calls didn't seem to go their way, but the Spurs overcame a slow, cold-shooting start to defeat the turnover-prone Denver Nuggets, 102-94. Tony Parker had 24, Tim Duncan had 17 and Kawhi chipped in 14, as the visiting Spurs outscored the Nuggets 30-16 in the final quarter to run away with the game. San Antonio moved to 3-1, while the 0-3 Nuggets are still looking for their first win of the season.
The home team started out strong, with Randy Foye's eight quick points keying a 13-4 run to start the game. They also rode a 12-0 second-quarter run to keep San Antonio at bay. For much of the first half, the Nuggets' Ty Lawson was able to use the screen-and-roll to wreak havoc on the defense. The lightning-quick point guard often looked for his shooters first coming around the screen, and the Nuggets made the Spurs pay whenever a man was left open in the first half, hitting 8 of their first 12 three-point attempts.
Meanwhile on the other end, San Antonio struggled to hit any shot not taken by Tony or Tim. While the two were able to use the pick-and-roll to free themselves up for looks, the rest of the team struggled to make anything from beyond five feet.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, in particular, continued their outside-shooting slumps, going a combined 0-5 from beyond the arc. The looks were there, and it seemed like just one make could get them into a rhythm. In the end it took a more concerted effort by Leonard to get his points, while Green finished with only four.
Despite 13 first-half turnovers by Denver, San Antonio simply couldn't cut into the lead, mostly thanks to their abysmal 35.6% shooting from the field. At the end of the second quarter, the Spurs were down 52-43.
The second half saw a few adjustments by Pop but, really, the Nuggets were their own undoing.
While Denver cooled off from the outside (and the Spurs got better at closing out on their shooters), their young players continued to make costly turnovers in the third and fourth quarters. They also committed plenty of fouls, keeping San Antonio in the game by sending its players to the line, where they made 18 of 20 for the game.
The length and athleticism of Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee bothered San Antonio at times, but mistakes by both kept them ineffective down the stretch: Mozgov fouled out early in the fourth quarter, while coach Brian Shaw's patience wore thin with McGee, who spent the end of the game on the bench, contemplating his five turnovers and poor defensive rotations.
Despite their shooting woes, Kawhi and Manu both found ways to make an impact through their aggressive play on both sides of the floor. Kawhi continued to push the ball in transition, which led to easy buckets like this one.
Manu for his part neither went overboard trying to shoot his way out of his slump (1-9 FG), nor did he fade away; he remained active, finding teammates and taking good shots when he was given them. Both guys managed to turn Nuggets turnovers into scoring opportunities down the stretch.
The turning point came at the beginning of the fourth, thanks to some key stops on one end and long-awaited jumpers on the other. Patty Mills brought the Spurs within two on a transition three and, one possession later, a Tiago Splitter three-point play finally put the good guys ahead.
Once San Antonio took the lead, there was no turning back. The Nuggets offense, which had relied so much on open looks and easy buckets by McGee and Mozgov, sputtered. They missed the few decent looks they did get and, lacking a true go-to guy, were unable to execute in the half-court. Kenneth Faried made it a 94-88 game with 3:24 left, but back-to-back shots by Tony and Kawhi put it away for good.
Read on for more points on the game. Oh and in case you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out Stampler's excellent recap of the game, too.
Standard Pop Quote
"I thought our defense was much better in the fourth. We held them to about 13 points until the very end when Ty Lawson went to the line. But our aggressiveness on defense picked up, which fueled our offense."
Tony Parker - 24 points, 6 assists, 9-13 shooting, 2 steals, 1 block
Timmy played very well (17 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 rebounds), but every time his 18-footer just grazes the front of the iron, a small part of me dies inside. Parker torched the Nuggets with his mid-range game all night long, and was a big reason San Antonio remained in the game through the first three quarters.
Marco Belinelli - 4 points, 2-5 shooting, 11 minutes
Italian Ice's main purpose tonight seemed to be as a punitive sub whenever Green or Leonard left a Nugget open for three. I counted three instances when Pop played the Marco card, and he didn't do much in his 11 minutes of play. He didn't have an especially bad night, but the team will need more from him, and other bench players, in the future.
By the Numbers
5,280 - Denver's altitude, in feet.
5,281 - Times you hear about how the altitude affects visiting teams during any Denver sporting event
35.6% - The Spurs' field-goal percentage in the first half.
3:51 - Time left in the game before Manu made his first, and only, field goal. He was 0-8 before that.
22 - Number of turnovers (and assists) the Nuggets had.
3 - Number of fouls Patty Mills was called for in a 30-second span. He would collect one more two minutes later.
Sequence of the Game
By the start of the fourth quarter, you could feel the momentum starting to swing in the Spurs' favor. While the Nuggets continued to make costly turnovers, the shots were beginning to fall for SA. Following a Patty Mills three that got his team within two points at 78-80, the Spurs came up with another stop. Going the other way, Manu - who continued to be aggressive despite his shooting struggles - penetrated into the lane and found Tiago underneath, who made the basket plus the foul. The made free throw put San Antonio up for the first time since the first quarter and, from that point on, they didn't look back.
- Boris continued his aggressive play, providing 9 points, 8 rebounds and a game-high plus/minus of +20 off the bench.
- Danny Green frustrated at times -- he left Foye open for an easy three in the first minute of the game (and was promptly subbed out); practically handed the ball to Kenneth Faried for a highlight-reel slam, and continued to struggle with his shot -- but there were still good things to take away from his night. He defended better in the second half, crashed the boards, and had one of the biggest plays of the fourth quarter, erasing Ty Lawson's layup attempt with a big block that led to a Mills three on the other end. Pop kept Danny in for the entire fourth quarter, a subtle move that could be huge when it comes to keeping the shooter's confidence up.
- Matt Bonner, who knocked down a three in the first half, reportedly experienced tightness in his calf and did not return.
Tweets of the Night
Nice try with the "Mozzie" nickname, Nuggets, but Blake Griffin still knows who you're talking about.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 6, 2013
Patty Mills is on pace for 28 fouls this quarter.— SARR (@SARR_SBN) November 6, 2013
MOZGONE— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 6, 2013
Danny Green finished at the rim. DANNY GREEN FINISHED AT THE RIM.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 6, 2013
My church, across the street from Tim Duncan's Speed Shop, is selling its front lot. No better time to make Boris Diaw's Scone Zone happen.— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) November 4, 2013
Spurs really Spur'd this game. just kept on Spurring till they won.— Conway Twittyer (@JailedFlynt) November 6, 2013
Going forward, the Spurs need to...
Help Danny get his shot back. Through four games, Green has made just one three. Maybe it'll happen Wednesday night, as the Spurs return to San Antonio to host the surprisingly 3-1 Phoenix Suns.