The Spurs got back into the win column Thursday night, holding a lead over the Denver Nuggets for the entirety of the game in a 123-111 victory.
Five different players finished the night with double-digit points. Derrick White led the way with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists, followed by Lonnie Walker, who chipped in 21 points off the bench. Dejounte Murray nearly clinched a triple-double with 20 points, eight rebounds and nine dimes, as did Jakob Poeltl with nine points, nine boards and seven dimes.
- Everyone on the team found their stroke early. The Spurs starting lineup up featured Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keita Bates-Diop, Doug McDermott and Jakob Poeltl. All but one of them hit a shot from beyond the arc in the opening six minutes (I’ll let you guess which one didn’t). The hot shooting allowed San Antonio to get off to a 20-12 lead, forcing the Nuggets to burn the first timeout of the game.
- White missed his next two 3-pointers and Denver cut the lead to four off a couple easy transition buckets. But Bryn Forbes kept the sizzling start form outside alive, hitting his first trey. The Spurs aren’t necessarily playing great defense, but so far, the Nuggets have struggled to keep up.
- It’s been interesting to see how Pop is choosing to defend Nikola Jokic. Jakob was mostly left to his own devices to stop the reigning MVP — he held him to five points on 2-4 shooting and two assists. Drew Eubanks got a little bit more help — when Jokic posted him up, Devin Vassell dropped down, swiped at the ball and came away with a steal. Jokic came out of the game on the next possession. The Spurs ended the quarter up 37-29
- You can tell Denver’s banged up by how much they struggled offensively with Jokic on the bench. The Spurs were up three when he subbed out. They went on a 16-6 run immediately after. The Nuggets probably would’ve held it together a bit better with Michael Porter Jr. or Jamal Murray in to stagger the minutes Jokic rests. It’s a lot tougher when they’re relying on Bones Hyland and Davon Reed for shots. Sitting Jokic and Will Barton AND Aaron Gordon at the same time seems like a bad idea.
- Devin Vassell looks healthy! He got an open runway to the rim on the baseline and slammed it home to put San Antonio up by 13. He scored on two of the next three possessions, too. I think his thigh’s going to be alright.
- The Spurs started struggling a bit when Denver put their starters back in. Gordon and Morris went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead down to 10. Jokic started doing MVP things again, making it a single-digit game, giving Poeltl his third foul and abusing Eubanks in the closing minutes of the half. Not ideal for San Antonio. The Nuggets plus-one with Jokic on the court and minus-10 in the five minutes he was off it.
- Drew Eubanks for 3, this is not a drill!
- The Silver and Black start the second half holding their own. They pried McDermott loose for a wide-open triple from the left wing — they’ve now hit 11-22 from outside. It got much more physical than the first half with a lot more fouls. Jakob picked up his fourth trying to seal Jokic as KBD drove down the lane (Fabricio Oberto said on the broadcast that might be the first time ever that it’s been called).
- Denver seemed to really want to go after any matchup that Aaron Gordon had late in the third. They kept Jokic on the outside, drawing Drew Eubanks out of the paint and forcing the issue against the likes of KBD and Vassell. It wasn’t too effective as the Spurs remained in front throughout. But a few turnovers in the last couple of minutes slashed the lead down to four. Treys from Vassell and DJ got it back up to 100-90 by the end of the third.
- Lonnie Walker’s been huge off the bench tonight. He hit a 3 to start the third quarter, his third of the night. He laid the ball in a few minutes later to tie White for a team-high 19 points It was encouraging to see him find his rhythm.
- Jokic came back in the game with 7:19 to play and San Antonio up 107-102. Jakob had to be careful not to get into deeper into foul trouble and surrendered a dribble drive from the top of the key. But the Spurs otherwise did a solid job keeping the Joker contained on the next couple possessions and pushed the lead to nine. It’s helped that they have a huge advantage on the boards — Denver’s only gotten five offensive rebounds all night.
- In possibly the most crucial point of the fourth quarter — their last chance to spark a comeback run — the Nuggets went back to Aaron Gordon in the paint, this time mismatched onto Derrick White. White earned a charge as Gordon backed him down, essentially putting the game away.
- San Antonio went on to win 123-111. It was a stark difference from the 102-96 loss they were dealt by the Nuggets in the second game of the season on Oct. 22. Tonight showed how much the team has improved since then.
For the Nuggets fans’ perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.
The Spurs and Nuggets will face off again for a rematch at the AT&T Center on Saturday. Tipoff will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.