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San Antonio vs. Denver, Final Score: Spurs fail to complete comeback, fall to Nuggets late 132-126

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Solid efforts by Rudy Gay and Derrick White were not enough to counter Denver’s scoring onslaught.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs
Gay helped prevent a blowout with much-needed scoring in the first half
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio’s Rudy Gay (24 points and 4 rebounds) and Derrick White (23 points and 7 assists) helped the team recover from a double digit deficit in the opening minutes. However, Nikola Jokic (25 points and 11 assists) and Michael Porter Jr. (30 points and 15 rebounds) helped Denver scorch the nets to 55% shooting (14-36 on 3-pointers) continue its recent success against San Antonio.

Observations

  • Though it seemed to happen much longer ago, it was merely last May that San Antonio allowed Denver to blitz them 17-4 on the way to a brutal game seven loss in their first round series.
  • The piped-in noise for this ‘home’ game seemed louder than the usual AT&T Center crowds.
  • Did Jakob Poeltl have early foul trouble again? NO. However, he and the other starters were overwhelmed in the opening minutes by the Nuggets’ energy, ball movement, and execution.
  • Dejounte Murray looked tentative early on and missed long on three attempts in the first half.
  • Nuggets play-by-play Chris Marlowe randomly quipped that if you type ‘Patty’ in a search engine, Patty Mills comes in fifth behind Hearst, Duke, “Melt,” and “Mayo.”
  • It will be difficult for current and future opponents to wrest rebounds away from Keldon Johnson.
  • I’m not sure what the cumulative count is during these bubble games, but the out-of-bounds violations - as players gather for a 3-pointer - must be over 30 by now.
  • Sequence of the Game: Derrick White generated a five-point swing when he took a charge on a Porter Jr. drive deep in the lane and netted a 3-point play at the other end with a difficult reverse layup.
  • The fact that Poeltl and Drew Eubanks can wield NBA-level moves in the paint after entering the league with limited offensive repertoires speaks to the ongoing quality of development the coaches put into the team’s young players. Poeltl converted a reverse layup in traffic in the final period, and Eubanks converted a nifty floater in the lane in the third quarter.
  • Denver rookie Michael Porter Jr. came out blazing from distance with ten points, while Lonnie Walker IV found the driving lanes to his liking with two runners of his own. San Antonio squandered away a handful of possessions, which allowed the Nuggets to jump out to a 16-4 advantage. All five starters were replaced via hockey substitution and the bench quickly closed the deficit to two. Rudy Gay helped stabilize the offense with shotmaking all over the court late and, despite the inauspicious start, San Antonio left the quarter down only four.
  • Gay maintained his shooting touch to keep his team within striking distance at the start of the second. Jerami Grant gave the Spurs fits on the boards. Denver also generated second-chance opportunities by recovering eight offensive rebounds. DeMar DeRozan and White led a 11-4 run to cut the deficit to two. Gay’s and Mills’ pull-up jumpers nudged San Antonio ahead 55-53. Torrey Craig took an inadvertent fist to the face from Eubanks on the Mills basket. Despite Eubanks being clearly shoved by Paul Millsap into Craig, Ed Molloy inexplicably gave him a technical foul. Shortly after, Eubanks and Molloy were again involved in a dubious call - this time reversing a three-point opportunity for Jokic and notching a third foul on him because of a elbow extended prior to his gather. The teams traded the lead before Johnson’s corner three ended a disjointed half with the Spurs up 65-62.
  • The Spurs came out of the break on a 6-0 run with Lonnie Walker IV continuing to display solid shooting from the arc and Murray getting on the board with a fastbreak layup. Jokic asserted himself in the post after a quiet half. Denver continued to corral offensive rebounds to close the gap. Jokic nailed back-to-back-to-back threes to tie the game briefly and the teams went into the final quarter tied at 89.
  • Porter Jr’s three-pointer put Denver up by four. Gay continued to score at will on the Nuggets’ frontline. White drew a charge on Porter Jr. - giving him four fouls. However, timely outside shooting by Porter Jr, Grant, and PJ Dozier put Denver up nine. Johnson tried to stem the Nuggets’ furious scoring pace with his own impressive shotmaking. Though the Spurs kept things somewhat close in the last minutes, they could not string together any stops on the defensive end in what turned out to be a 43-point fourth barrage for Denver.

The other game today affecting the Spurs bubble seeding: Jazz 124 Grizzlies 115. Memphis fell to 32-37 and sits one game ahead of ninth-place Portland.

For the Nuggets fan’s perspective, please visit Denver Stiffs.

The Spurs take on Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in an early tipoff Friday at 12:00 PM CT.