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San Antonio vs. Denver, Final Score: Spurs make several late runs but succumb to the Nuggets, 102-96

The young San Antonio squad contended well with the Western Conference powerhouse

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets
Jokic overcame an onslaught of Spurs defenders and Keldon Johnson’s scoring binge to lead his team to the hard-earned win
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets overcame a hot-shooting San Antonio start in the first half and earned its eighth straight home victory against the Spurs. The visitors kept things interesting throughout the second half but were prone to bouts of ice-cold shooting in falling to a more seasoned Nuggets squad.

Denver was paced by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (32 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists). Will Barton (12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists) and Monte Morris (13 points) added to the superstar center’s outsized contributions.

Dejounte Murray (16 points and 8 assists) and Keldon Johnson (27 points and 3 steals) led a spirited effort in the road loss. Jakob Poeltl chipped in 15 points and 8 rebounds while Derrick White added 16 points and 8 assists.

Observations

  • How many of us were watching the last 2.5 quarters Wednesday night with a grin on our faces the entire time?
  • Although they ranked the Spurs last in watchability, the USA Today may have been last in readability for the last 20+ years.
  • I really hope the Spurs bigs don’t end up leading the league in offensive fouls.
  • There were times where San Antonio on defense looked like a cohesive movement of tentacles on the perimeter. At other times, they showed their greenness and withered around Jokic’s brilliance.
  • Derrick’s D: On what looked to be a sure fast break score by Nugget forward Will Barton in the first quarter, White exercised great verticality to forced a brick off the backboard. In the second, as Gordon sized him up from the perimeter, many Pounders likely predicted that White would draw a charge on the ensuing drive.
  • Keldon’s Kitchen: Coming off a high pick and roll early in the first quarter, Johnson waited while his defender flew by and calmly nailed a smooth jumper, then followed that with a foray into the paint with a floater and a traditional 3-point play at the rim. Later in the half, Jokic attempted to draw a charge on a Johnson drive, and Keldon stopped just short of Joker and nailed a floater.
  • Devin’s Deeds: Vassell seems to have a natural nose for making the right play. He followed a 3-point miss to start the second period and eased himself into a floater for his first make.
  • I can’t help but think the name ‘Ball Arena’ was lifted out of an anime.
  • A more fun-to-watch Spurs team necessitates more HEB commercials!
  • Nuggets sideline reporter, Katy Winge, quoted Coach Malone as saying he would not have had a job without ‘Pop’s help’ and regards him as ‘the greatest coach in NBA history.’
  • I don’t know who he would replace (Dennis Rodman maybe?), but Nuggets great Alex English deserved to be on the NBA-75 team. He would often have his most prolific and efficient scoring efforts against San Antonio throughout the 80s. In fact, English led all players in scoring for the entire decade!
  • Jakob Poeltl has benefitted from Tim Duncan’s tutelage. He can now dribble out of a tough spot at the top of the key and find his own offense by driving to the basket.
  • Johnson strongly brought San Antonio out of the gates with a touchdown’s worth of points on an impressive repertoire of offensive moves. Jokic, Morris, and Aaron Gordon found early success at and around the rim against the smaller Spurs. As the San Antonio offense cooled, Denver used a 9-2 run to surge ahead. Murray steadied his team with a pair of smooth jumpers and San Antonio exited an entertaining first quarter down only four.
  • The Nuggets leveraged an advantage in threes with former Spur JaMychal Green making the most of his perimeter opportunities to extend the lead to eight. Lonnie Walker IV steadied himself with a knifing layup and a three to help keep San Antonio close despite committing nearly a dozen turnovers. In one sequence, Jokic demonstrated his sublime court vision by whipping a crosscourt pass through and around three defenders and then nabbing the miss to earn a 3-point play. It appeared the only way to stop him was when Murray accidentally scraped Jokic’s nose in transition. Johnson picked up his team-leading 18th point on a Kobe-like baseline fadeaway to close the gap to three.
  • A Murray steal and lay-in followed by a transition three gave San Antonio its first advantage since the opening minutes. Jokic asserted himself more on offense, while different Spurs took turns helping the team keep pace. The teams remained within a handful points of each other throughout the quarter until a Jokic three and assist to Facundo Campazzo in transition pushed San Antonio’s deficit to ten. The Spurs fell prey to another cold spell during Jokic’s personal run and were fortunate to be down only 79-70 heading into the fourth.
  • San Antonio showed zone to thwart the Nuggets scoring machine and closed the gap quickly. White hustled back after a perimeter miss to snag a Denver outlet pass and Poeltl jammed home a miss. White then found Poeltl in traffic to make it a five point game. Jokic had his way with both Poeltl and Drew Eubanks in the paint. After several unfruitful San Antonio possessions, Jokic found Michael Porter, Jr. for a wing three to make it 94-85.
  • San Antonio drew Denver into the penalty in the final four minutes, but Jokic continued his dominance unimpeded. Johnson passed up an open three to draw Gordon’s fifth foul and make it a two possession game. White answered with a critical three after a Jokic baseline make with Poeltl draped all over him. Morris converted a fadeaway jumper to salt the game away after several San Antonio misses.

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

San Antonio returns home for a SEGABABA tomorrow evening with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 PM CT on BSSW.