The Denver Nuggets, coming off of a blowout loss at Golden State last night, was led by Nikola Jokic (20 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists) and a cadre of Nugget wingmen in double figure scoring. Spur MVP LaMarcus Aldridge led the team with 16 points and six rebounds, but they could not overcome ice cold shooting and poor defense. San Antonio fell behind the Oklahoma City Thunder by 0.5 game. The Nuggets occupy the second seed and are 1.5 games behind the Warriors with the Houston Rockets currently 1.5 games behind them.
Late Season Observations
- Spurs introductions were done with ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ playing. Denver paired a Will Barton open three with a nifty backdoor pass from Nikola Jokic to Jamal Murray to start the scoring. Pop was rather suddenly ejected 63 seconds in for disputing a bump by Paul Millsap on a LaMarcus Aldridge turnaround jumper. Both teams seemed visibly fatigued - Derrick White’s first two possessions consisted of a floater blocked by Murray and airballed three, while Paul Millsap added in his own airball to boot. On the other hand, Jokic and Murray executed whatever they wanted on the offensive end by a variety of give-and-go and pick-and-rolls to get Denver an early seven point lead on 70% shooting. After a slow shooting start, Aldridge and Rudy Gay kept it close with heady play along with a handful of Denver turnovers. After a haggard and uneven effort, the Spurs fortunately left the period down only 24-28.
- Denver started with 13 assists on its first 15 field goals. White drew Jokic’s second foul early in the second quarter after Derrick shot past four Nugget defenders. Analyst Scott Hastings retorted immediately “Do you hear that? Yeah. When you point a finger (on defense) you don’t hear anything.” Denver extended its lead to 17 with better shooting from distance, and reserve Monte Morris contributing nine straight points. San Antonio simply could not find its way particularly at the defensive end throughout the period and went into the break down 43-61. In a stat line reminiscent of the mid-80s version of these teams, Denver racked up 22 assists to the Spurs seven and outshot San Antonio 58% to 37%.
- Gay replaced Jakob Poeltl and the Spurs came out in a 2-3 zone to start the third, which resulted in Denver missing its first handful of shots. However, San Antonio was only able to score three points at the other end. The Nuggets began finding cracks in the zone by changing placement of Jokic in the middle of it and pushed the lead out to 19. DeMar DeRozan went on his own personal 5-0 run. Lonnie Walker IV was inserted late in the period to see what he could do to slow down the Nuggets offense and netted a layup to close out scoring in the period. Marco Belinelli passed up a three point shot and attempted a late drive - only to throw it meekly straight to a Nugget for a transition opportunity, which just about about summed up the evening. Denver went into the fourth quarter up 86-64.
- San Antonio went deep into the bench to start the fourth. Nugget play-by-play Chris Marlowe complimented Davis Bertans on “how hard he plays.” Marlowe than referred to Walker IV as “Lonnie Smith” and “Dejounte” at different times.
- Is there a chance that we see a Hack-a-Poeltl versus a Hack-a-Plumlee scenario in the playoffs?
- The Nuggets are now 11-1 (4-0 home) on their SEGABABAs. That may be the difference between a second seed or a third/fourth seed for them.
- Nugget Playoff Scouting: Monte Morris - His playmaking seemed to flummox the Spurs all season. / Will Barton - Barton contributed all over the court in the first half with his shooting (11 points) and defense.
- MCL (Marco’s Crazy Leaner) Count: zero. Marco attempted one late in the third quarter behind the arc, but as with most of his shots tonight, it went in and out.
- Steve Louis of The Ringer, penned an article today chronicling the 20 year anniversary of the New York Knicks unlikely run to the 1999 finals won by none other than our San Antonio Spurs. I remain hopeful that the site will have a dedicated Spurs commemoration coming down the pipeline.
- Comprehensive chicken NUGGET rankings: 1) Whataburger, 2) Raising Cane’s, 3) Chick-Fil-A, 4) Wendy’s, 5) McDonalds, and 6) Burger King.
Playoff Watch: At game’s end, Rockets’ tussle with the seventh seeded Los Angeles Clippers was underway with Houston leading by double digits in the first half.
San Antonio heads east for the second leg of their final road trip to take on Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards Friday at 6:00 PM CDT. Have a great evening!