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San Antonio at Denver, Final Score: Nuggets dominate Spurs for important Game 5 win, 108-90

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The Spurs failed to show up for the most important game of the series so far.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs headed back to Denver for Game 5, and in a tied series that is usually do-or-die time, especially considering the winner has gone on to win the series 83% of the time. Unfortunately, for the second game in a row the Spurs failed to show up against the Nuggets and got blown out from the time the score was 11-11 and on. It was nowhere near as friendly was the final score of 108-90 would indicate.

LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan had 17 points apiece, and Jamal Murray led seven Nuggets in double figures with 23 points.

Observations

  • The Nuggets opened the game still hot from three, hitting 5-12 in the first quarter with good ball movement and taking advantage of the Spurs double-teams on Nikola Jokic. The Spurs lost the first quarter for the first time this series 19-26, with perhaps their only saving grace being good defense in the lanes and getting 7 points off 6 Nuggets turnovers.
  • This is more a general observation than based on anything specific, but in recent seasons the NBA has attempted to make a point that offensive players “creating” contact will not be considered defensive fouls. Well, it’s probably safe to say that concept has never taken hold. A defender can be backpedaling with his arms straight in the air, and all the offensive player has to do is lean into the defender’s gut to get a call. If this is going to be a legal foul, fine, but the NBA needs to redefine “creating contact” or back away from that idea all together.
  • DeRozan had to accept early that he wasn’t getting any calls tonight. That’s not too surprising considering he’s coming off a game in which he was ejected for chucking the ball in the general direction of an official. It was also noticeable that every time he looked to the officials for a call (even without vocally complaining), he just got a glare back from Mike Callahan. (He ultimately got 5 free throws on the night, but they all came in extended garbage time.)
  • Jakob Poeltl and Marco Belinelli gave the Spurs a little life with some aggressive play early in the second quarter, but the Nuggets offense remained red-hot while foul trouble (particularly to Derrick White) sucked even more life from the Spurs. It felt like a minor miracle that they were only down by 11 at the half.
  • While the optimist in me tried to say at the halftime that the Spurs couldn’t get much worse, and the Nuggets couldn’t get much better as a means of finding a way back in, but I was wrong. The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run, taking the lead beyond 20 points and out of range of the Spurs’ largest comeback of the season (19). The Spurs got down by as much as 27 before fighting back a bit late in the third with a 12-2 run of their own, but Jokic hit a couple of threes inside the final minute to keep them from getting any closer.
  • Did anyone actually show up for this game? It’s hard to say. Maybe Poeltl? He played his tail off like he always does, posting a nice line of 12 points on 6-7 shooting, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. In fact, he was the only starter who didn’t have a box score +/- in the -20’s before garbage time with “only” -9. He also played his usual good defense on Jokic, who was held to 16 points (although in fairness he didn’t have to score for his team tonight). Overall it was a very nice game from Poeltl, but he had no help, and it’s one of those times where it’s not a good thing that he was the MVP on the night.
  • To borrow a point from our very own Jesus Gomez, these playoffs are making Rudy Gay more and more affordable this summer. Since Game 1 he has completely disappeared, and tonight was no different with just 6 points on 3-9 attempts. I love Rudy and want the Spurs to re-sign him, but this has probably been his worst stretch with them when healthy (assuming they aren’t hiding something from us).

For the Nuggets fans’ perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.

The series returns to San Antonio for Game 6 on Thursday. Tip-off time is still TBD.