Derrick White (36 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists), DeMar DeRozan (25 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists), and LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists) helped San Antonio weather a 16-0 Denver run in the second to take a 2-1 series lead. Denver’s Nikola Jokic (22 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) and Malik Beasley (17 points and 9 rebounds) paced the Nuggets, who have now lost 14 straight games in San Antonio dating back to March 2012.
- Both teams came out firing with all San Antonio starters not named Jakob Poeltl scoring, while Paul Millsap fired away with three early baskets. Derrick White proved adept early at finding driving lanes, including three balletic finishes at the rim. Nikola Jokic had two drives deep into the paint for kickouts to Denver’s perimeter shooters, and Gary Harris found his shooting touch. Jamal Murray, a 85% free throw shooter this year, missed his first “TWO SHOTS” tonight. After Poeltl picked up his second foul, the Spurs utilized Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge’s playmaking to surge ahead 23-16. Denver’s bench, spearheaded by Torrey Craig and Monte Morris provided energy to keep the team within range. The Spurs left the first period up 31-22, as San Antonio’s defense contributed a handful of deflections.
- The Nuggets bench detonated for 16 straight points in the second, led by Beasley’s solid shooting, to take a seven point lead. Their Spur counterparts threw up some uncharacteristic bricks in response. A Craig offensive rebound among four Spurs resulted in a technical foul on DeRozan for arguing a missed over-the-back call. Denver up to this point had made 8 of their first 13 three’s in order to extend their lead to ten. After White pulled up for a silky jumper, Sean Elliott exclaimed “he just knows how to get his shot!” Jokic then picked up a technical of his own for arguing a foul call. A driving dunk by Millsap was followed by a White twisting layup among several Denver bigs for his 20th point. Yet another driving layup by White across the lane ended a 13-2 Spurs run to put them up by one.
- It seemed like the only way to stop Millsap was for Aldridge to draw a third foul on him. The first Hack-a-Plumlee in the series occurred when San Antonio sent him to the line for two misses. Poeltl, Aldridge, and Gay gave the Nuggets bigs a handful on the offensive boards with Millsap (3), Plumlee (3), and Jokic (2) having foul concerns. An emphatic White steal and breakaway finish brought a very frenetic first half to a close to make it 61-58 Spurs. White led San Antonio with 26 points on a coolly efficient 11-15 shooting, while Millsap and Jokic paced Denver with 11 points apiece and 23 points from their bench.
- Jokic hit his 3rd three of the game to tie it at 61. However, DeRozan asserted himself with a variety of pretty conversions. White made his presence known by nearly blocking a Murray pull-up jumper, which ignited DeMar’s fast break to push the Spurs lead to seven. A series of ‘Beautiful Game’ Spurs sequences netted a DeRozan dunk and then Jokic’s third foul on a Forbes drive. White walled off a Murray drive on the baseline which led again to a DeMar fast break layup at the other end. DeRozan started the quarter a perfect 6-for-6, while Jokic also became more of a scorer with several plodding drives. An important Poeltl tip-in pushed the Spur lead back out to five. Morris continued the bench’s success in attacking the Spurs rim. DeMar ended the third quarter with 18 points to help the inevitable push by the Nugget bench. San Antonio entered the fourth up 88-84.
- Rudy Gay went directly after Plumlee to start the scoring for the Spurs, while Beasley went on his own 5-0 run to keep Denver close. White fended off a reaching Murray to score an and-1 over a frustrated Millsap and then proceeded to play peacemaker in between a heated Murray and Poeltl. Pop again had trouble getting the attention of the referees to call a timeout. An Aldridge tip-jam off of a Forbes miss and a lay-in after a Millsap flop made it 105-91. Donatas Motiejunas got on the scoreboard late in the game.
- Poeltl seems to have improved the execution of his dribble handoffs.
- White’s 26 points in a half have been bested only by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
- MCL Count (Marco’s Crazy Leaners) - 2. His first one from the left wing was the first team field goal in the second. The other one notched the Spurs a seven point lead in the fourth.
- Jokic has earned a reputation for maintaining a sub-optimal level of fitness. After a lazy reach-in foul late in the first on an Aldridge drive, I wondered if some of these fouls are from poor conditioning or less-than-stellar habits - and whether a trimmer Nikola could be a decent two-way big going forward.
- Spur guard Dejounte Murray has noticeably been around the team this playoff run, which is not something that could have been said about a certain nephew last year.
- The Whataburger Flying Fries home game should be made available to us out-of-state fans.
The two teams stay in the Alamo City for Game 4 on Saturday, April 20th at 4:30 PM CDT. Have a great night, Pounders!