The Spurs have met the Denver Nuggets four times. In three of those meetings, the Silver and Black were short multiple players and they went 2-1. Coming into the fourth game of the series, and riding a three game losing streak, the only Spur on the injury report this time was Kawhi Leonard (if you are a masochist, you can read more about his absence here) until Danny Green was scratched due to illness. Pau Gasol returned to the starting lineup and Patty Mills replaced Green to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Anderson, and Dejounte Murray. For the Nuggs, Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris got the start with the FSSW announcers commenting that Will Barton was going to start, despite fighting through strep throat.
LaMarcus came out shooting and Patty Mills hit a three, created a turnover, and then hit another three for an early lead. It’s nice to see Mills hitting a couple of threes, but Jokic and his teammates were also hitting them (4 -7 in the quarter). Tony Parker came in and looked fresh, hitting a couple of quick, sneaky jumpers.
Spurs 30 Nuggets 32 to end the quarter.
After stopping the Nuggets in the first possession of the quarter, Gay hit his first shot. Mills hit two 3s in consecutive possessions, putting the Spurs up by 4. Then Kyle Anderson was fouled and the Spurs got their first free throw shots, but Anderson missed them. Free throws seem to be a problem this season because a few possessions later, Gasol missed one of his two shots from the charity stripe. Mills hit two more threes to keep the good guys close. It’s nice to see Mills getting hot from three - he was 4 of 7 by halftime.
Murray seemed to find his stride in the 2nd quarter - grabbing a strong rebound, racing from end to end to make a shot and getting an and-1. Twice.
But the Nuggets tried to make the game a sprint - racing back to offense every possession - and the some of the Spurs looked winded in the high altitude. The fact that the Spurs kept shooting and their field goal percentage was in the 50%s kept them in this quarter. Then Jokic hit a three in the last 30 seconds. Parker got fouled and hit his free throws.
Spurs 61 Nuggets 63 to end the second quarter.
LMA got the first points for the Spurs after Jokic was fouled by Gasol and Jokic missed his free throws. Anderson scored on one of his patented Slo-Mo Euro-step shots. The offense was clicking - LMA hit two shots, one with an assist from Murray and Murray got one with an assist from Aldridge - putting the Spurs up by 5. The two teams traded buckets to keep the score within two or three for most of the rest of the quarter. Based on the scoring, defense was optional for long stretches.
For a scary moment, Mills and Parker collided going for a rebound and Parker hit the court hard with his cheek and was slow to get up. But he returned to play right after a timeout.
Manu Ginobili got his first points with a vintage Manu shot with just over 3 minutes left in the quarter. But then the Nuggs went on a 10-0 run to take a 7 point lead. A couple of free throw shots made by Spurs brought them closer, but the Nuggets kept pushing and scoring keep the Spurs at arm’s length. A final shot by Joffrey Lauvergne ended the quarter with a positive.
Spurs 87 Nuggets 96 at the end of the third quarter.
Tony opened with quarter with sweet scoop shot. But Denver’s second chance points and our fouls on shooters kept the lead at 7. But a couple of nice heads up plays, including an on-target full court pass by Parker to a cherry-picking Mills closed up the lead to 4. But a series of misses from the Spurs and hot shooting and old fashion three point plays (and-1s) kept the Nuggets up and just out of reach. Three stops in a row and three scoring possessions for the Spurs start to close the gap to three points. Gasol hits one of two free throws after Jokic is called for an offensive foul to bring it to a two point lead, until the Spurs are whistled again for another two Denver free throws for Harris, who hits one of two to bring it back to a three point lead. It seemed like the last five minutes of the game (when everyone was in the Bonus) was a competition by the refs to see who could blow the whistle the most. LMA gets fouled and hits both to bring it back to one point lead, when Harris is called for an offensive foul and coach Michael Malone and Jamal Murray got whistled for technicals and then LMA was fouled (he hit one of two techs and both free throws) to tie the game at 114. A crazy couple of possessions put the Nuggets up by one and then Pau had a beautiful block on Plumlee. Jokic had a third offensive foul to make it his sixth foul and he was done (with a triple double with 1:45 left in the game). Two broken Spurs possessions and Denver scores put them up by three.
Spurs 119 Nuggets 122 to end the fourth.
- LaMarcus was active and looked good, hitting 4 of 5 early on. He even got a great dunk off a pass from Parker. LMA came to play this game and scored 38 points. Let’s hope he can keep this up.
- Rudy Gay entered the game at the 4:39 mark in the first. Gay’s first shot was short and hit the front of the rim, but his form looked good. He hit his first shot at the start of the 2nd and it was sweet. Welcome back Rudy.
- Matt Bonner called his first game for the Spurs and he did a good job. He had some great insights and some interesting/funny lines - comparing a Mills pass to something from ultimate Frisbee and then chuckles after a streaking LMA made a basket and said “We are going streaking!”
- The Spurs kept turnovers low in the first half (only 4), and seeing that turnovers have been an issue in many of the losses, it’s a good sign that the Silver and Black were taking better care of the ball. They ended the game with 7 total turnovers.
- With just over ten minutes left in the fourth, Denver had over 100 points. Hmmm, did someone leave their defense on vacation?
- Joffrey Lauvergne didn’t make an appearance until late in the third, but once he was in the game in both quarters, he made a big impact.
So the Spurs have split the season series with the Nuggets. See the Silver and Black play again on Sunday against the “new-look” Cavaliers at 2:30 p.m. CST.