Denver (13-13) gained an emphatic split with San Antonio (9-16) in its mini-series with the rested squad regaining its defensive legs and shooting touch. The visitors leveraged a 44 point second period and 30-point advantage from behind-the-arc to stun the Spurs and salt away a comfortable road victory.
Both teams traded leads throughout the opening quarter. The Nuggets, missing a lineup’s worth of contributors (Jamal Murray, Michael Porter, Jr., Will Barton, and P.J. Dozier), behind blistering shooting from unheralded reserves Bones Hyland and Markus Howard, seized an advantage that they did not relinquish for the final quarters.
Aaron Gordon (16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists), Monte Morris (19 points and 4 assists), Howard (21 points), and Hyland (16 points) supported a dominant peformance by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (35 points, 17 rebounds, and 8 assists) in the blowout. San Antonio was led by Devin Vassell (15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists), and Lonnie Walker IV (16 points), but their production was not nearly enough to offset a rare listless performance.
- The Denver City Edition road unis are clean and crisp, but their shooting shirts adorned by the miner with the pickaxe is pretty funky.
- Jeff Green has to play for the Spurs at some point in his well-traveled career, right?
- Despite Stephen Curry ending the night a handful of threes short of Ray Allen’s record, Pop, when asked earlier this week about memorable moments in the guard’s career, noted “I think he was still, for some reason, under the radar in the beginning. He’s kind of slight stature; at the time he wasn’t that strong. He always looks like he’s about 17 or 18 years old. You didn’t look at him and say, ‘Hey, he’s gonna to do this.’ But as the years went by and you realize he’s one of the greatest shooters you’ve ever seen, it became apparent that everything, record-wise, would be available to him ... Because his movement, along with his shooting ability, his ball-handling along with it creates so much space for him to get shots off. He’s put in a lot of work and I don’t think people understand that.”
- A ‘Lonnie’ happened yet again where Walker IV stepped out of bounds prior to making an explosive move to the bucket late in the opening stanza.
- Watching Jokic run full-speed - with or without the ball - is truly a sight to behold.
- Sean Elliott likened Zion Williamson’s injury struggles (weight) to Curry’s early-career ankle troubles. Thankfully Curry recovered to become the greatest shooter ever, but it’s next to impossible in today’s game to play at or near 300 pounds.
- In the first half, Nugget guard Facundo Campazzo turned an Oscar-worthy performance by lurching into Poeltl on a pick and flailing helplessly to draw an offensive foul. On the other hand, Campazzo == Manu’s spiritual brother, right?
- Keldon’s Kitchen: He seems no longer content driving straight-lined towards the hoop. Late in the first half, he led his defender into the lane and used his weight to spin off of them for a gorgeous lefty lay-in.
- Gordon must have been instructed to use his size and girth in the paint more - notching two baskets at the rim. Denver turned the Spurs over several times and hurdled out to an eight point lead. After a turnover, Jokic tried to foul Poeltl in transition to no avail and picked up a technical foul arguing the no-call. Undeterred, Jokic notched double digits scoring with three long-range bombs, while White and Johnson carried the bulk of San Antonio’s offense with 13 of the team’s first 17. Mike Malone engaged in a hack-a-Poeltl late in the quarter - with the center connecting on both freebies. A flurry of Walker IV points gave San Antonio a slight lead exiting the frame.
- Walker IV leapt into double digits for the Spurs to start the second. Jeff Green and Drew Eubanks had to be separated after some wrestling in the paint. Out of nowhere, an octet of increasingly outrageous threes from Bones Hyland and Markus Howard buried their counterparts. Howard later was even gifted a clear-path foul despite being it happening deep in the frontcourt. Johnson put some salve in the wound with a couple of baskets followed by a White bucket in transition and a Murray jumper bringing the deficit back into single-digits. Monte Morris took advantage of a questionable charge call on Murray and hit a halfcourt buzzer beater over him to make it 72-56 at the break.
- Smelling blood in the water, Denver rolled out of the break on a 15-1 blitzing to bookend the 9-0 run it ended the first half with to steamroll the Spurs. To add insult to injury, Jokic dunked and did a chin-up on the rim for the exclamation point. Pop emptied his bench a four minutes into the stanza to allow the starters presumably to rest for tomorrow’s tilt with the Pelicans.
- With a rare 18+ minutes of extended garbage time, Jokic continued to feast on the San Antonio reserves until the end of the third. Forbes connected from long-distance and in the paint to get into double digits. Tre Jones provided an energetic and steady presence. Eubanks turned back several attempts at the rim, the second of which possibly concussed Zeke Nnaji after an awkward fall. Thaddeus Young showed off a deft, yet ground-bound post game.
- A late 16-0 run by San Antonio forced Mike Malone to bring back most of his starters - toinght’s consolation prize.
For the Nuggets fan’s perspective, please visit Denver Stiffs.
San Antonio thankfully have a SEGABABA at home tomorrow at 6:00 PM CT against Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans.