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San Antonio vs. Denver, Final Score: Spurs throttle Nuggets, 112-80

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Hot shooting and defense carry Spurs past Denver.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With the upstart Nuggets in town on Saturday night, the Spurs took control early in the first quarter through some hot three-point shooting and suffocating defense, and never looked back. Though the Nuggets briefly cut the lead down to six within the first two minutes of the third quarter, the Spurs kept hitting from deep, and were fueled by brilliant shooting from Davis Bertans [six 3s, 18 points], an impressive two-way stretch in the second quarter from Kawhi Leonard [19-8-4-4] and a sublime offensive performance from the bench [53], resulting in a 32-point shellacking.

Observations

Unquestionably, the play of the game came courtesy of a Manu Ginobili dunk with 47 seconds left in the first quarter. After receiving the ball facing away from the basket around the free throw line, Pau Gasol tossed the ball over his shoulder to Manu for an explosive one-handed slam. For good measure, Manu also had a tip-in, a stepback jumper, and a reverse layup in a very effective 17 minutes of action.

It was a night of brilliant stretches of basketball for the Spurs, none more encouraging than Kawhi Leonard’s second quarter. Defensively, he pressured passing lanes, swiped passes and snatched rebounds and on offense he sliced into the paint for layups, passes to open shooters dotting the 3-point line, and earned free throws. Through nine games, we have only seen flashes of a healthy Kawhi, but from the 7:30 mark through the 3:11 mark of the second quarter, we saw flashes of the dominant Kawhi that completely changes a game on both ends of the floor.

Bertans was on fire from deep Saturday night and was ready to shoot the second he crossed halfcourt. He hit five 3s in the first half alone, and his mere presence on the floor opened up the paint for every other Spur to attack the hoop.

For as well as the Spurs shot tonight, their defense slammed the door on the game. Other than Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic or wing Garry Harris, they simply had few other options, which resulted in a first quarter output of 16 points and a fourth quarter of 11 points. The defense swarmed on the perimeter, and Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge walled off the paint, leaving the Nuggets to scramble late in the shot clock and take difficult, contested jumpers.

It was a much-needed victory for the Spurs, who came out flat against the Lakers on Thursday night and are still working their regular rotation back. As always, on to the next one.