For 2 1⁄2 quarters, it looked like the Spurs were going to pull off the near-impossible and snag both Games 1 and 2 from the 2nd seed Nuggets, leading by 19 points in both halves. However, knowing it was a must win, the Nuggets (who have been known for their fourth quarters at home) stormed back behind a torrid fourth quarter from Jamal Murray to steal the 114-105 win and lock up the series 1-1.
LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White combined for 72 of the Spurs points. For the Nuggets, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Murray combined for 88 points.
- Both teams came out looking to establish dominance early, which meant chaos all around. Both sides tried to get to the rim against coverage early, resulting in some misses and free throws, but after a timeout everyone settled into their offense and found more shots within the flow of the game. Still, the pace throughout the first half was insane for two of the slower teams in the league.
- This time it was DeRozan who got in foul trouble early, sitting with two within three minutes of opening tip. It was unfortunate because he had started the game aggressive on offense, which is usually a good sign.
- Aldridge was determined to make his mark early after a lackluster shooting night in Game 1, and he found his rhythm immediately from the mid-range and pick-and-roll, scoring 12 points in the first quarter on 5-9 shooting.
- That foul trouble made DeRozan mad — in a good way. He came back in to start second quarter while Aldridge rested and promptly led the Spurs on a 16-2 run and out to a 19-point lead. His energy was contagious, spreading to the rest of the team on both ends of the court and bringing out the boo birds from the Nuggets fans as their team looked flustered.
- Of course, the Nuggets promptly responded with a 14-2 run, coincidentally or not right after a Mike Malone technical. Denver got a few favorable calls to get them back in rhythm (perhaps thanks to their coach), but despite them getting as close as 6, Cool Hand White was there to steady the ship with 7 timely points and more solid defense to get the Spurs back up by double-figures at the half.
- At the beginning of the first half, the Aldridge-Jakob Poeltl pairing felt like an offensive liability. At the beginning of the second half, the defensive upside of that paring shined, especially once Millsap sat with four fouls and Jokic was sharing the floor with Mason Plumlee.
- Once again the Spurs got up by 19 late in the third, but the Nuggets refused to fold with a 16-4 run to close the quarter. Both big runs felt like a combination of the Spurs relaxing a bit after getting up by 19 (an issue they’ve had all season) and the Nuggets taking advantage with their physicality when refs relaxed their whistles. It also felt like Pop let that run go a little long before calling a timeout, allowing the Nuggets to continue to gain confidence and sway the momentum in their favor.
- Murray finally found his shot to start the fourth quarter, and all the “refs you suck” chants from the Denver crowd throughout the night appeared to have gotten into the officials’ heads, combining for a complete comeback. The Spurs got called for phantom fouls while Denver got away with plenty of contact. It all culminated in a Pop technical with the Nuggets already up 2 for crossing mid-court to call a timeout.
- Murray shot 8-9 in the quarter for 22 points in the quarter that the Nuggets won 39-23 to complete the rally. The Spurs got the win in Denver they needed, and this game still kind of felt like a loss coming in, but that doesn’t make the way they lost this one any less disappointing.
For the Nuggets fans’ perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.
The Spurs are returning to the AT&T Center for Game 3 on Thursday. Tip-off will be at 8:00 PM CT on FSSW and NBATV.