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The Spurs loss to Nuggets pushes losing streak to season-high five games

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The Spurs tried hard to break their losing spell but the Nuggets end up having too much as they outlast the Spurs; 121-119.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs’ losing streak extended to five games with a gutsy loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Spurs have their worst losing streak of the season, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, as the Spurs took the game down to the very last millisecond in a 121-119 loss.

Part of the frustrating 9-game stretch prior to Friday night had been due to the loss of Swingman Lonnie Walker IV, who made his comeback 10 games after being pulled for an injured wrist. San Antonio’s 10-man rotation was not fully assembled, with Gorgui Dieng sitting this one out after he re-aggravated his shoulder injury last game. The Nuggets were once again without Guard Jamal Murray, though Nikola Jokic was able to help extend Denver’s winning streak to eight games.

If you wanted to see a response from the Spurs after the previous four performances, it didn’t come in the first quarter, as the beat down started right away. In the first 90 seconds the Nuggets already had 8 points which included two wide open threes. But even more worrying was that the Nuggets hit 4 three pointers before San Antonio had even tried one themselves. The Spurs battled and kept it close until the bench unit checked in. The Spurs were down 3 when Patty and Rudy entered the game at the 6-minute mark. The Spurs ended the first down 36-26. If you can’t do math, don’t worry, I’ll spell it out for you. The bench unit was a -7 in just under 5 minutes of play. The good news is Lonnie hit a three in his return.

The 2nd started just as bad as the 1st as Denver scored 8 straight and had their largest lead of the game at 18. What’s odd is that Devin Vassell didn’t take the court until the 7:30 mark of the 2nd and only played 3 minutes for the whole game. The schedule is packed and guys seem exhausted, yet the veterans (Rudy & Patty) got more minutes than the young guns who you’d think would be fresher. I can’t explain it. Derrick White did some good things as he scored 6 straight before a AND-1 Lonnie dunk which took the deficit to single digits. But the Spurs couldn’t keep the momentum as some sloppy basketball towards the end allowed Denver an 11-point lead at the break.

Dejounte Murray came out fired up for the second half with a 7-point spurt as he helped trim down the lead. But once again the Spurs eschewed nice things, as Keldon picked up his 4th foul and was sentenced to the bench. After a 3/13 first half from downtown the Spurs picked up the shooting as two straight deep shots brought the Spurs within 4. The same story has been written over and over again the past couple of weeks so you may as well say it along with me: the Spurs just couldn’t get over the hump, they gave up 2 AND-1’s to the Nuggets, both times when they were within 2 to allow the red hot Denver side some breathing room. And that was followed by back-to-back triples from Monte Morris pushing the the lead to 13 at the end of the quarter.

Unlike Wednesday’s matchup against Denver, this time San Antonio didn’t wilt, an 8-0 run brought them once again within 4, with eight to play. The bad news was the Spurs did it when Jokic wasn’t in the game, so the inevitable happened as Jokic led a quick 5-0 run before setting Morris up with a 3 out of a double team, and the lead was back to 11. The Spurs didn’t die and went on their own run a little bit later as a 7-0 spurt brought them to one point off the Nuggets, and even had a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, a turnover allowed Denver to recover. The Spurs made one more go at it as a Derrick White layup cut it to 1 with 16 seconds to play. After a free throw game by both teams, Michael Porter Jr missed his second of his two and with 10 seconds to play and the Spurs down 2, Keldon rushed the ball up the court. He tried to finish above the aforementioned Porter Jr but it wouldn’t fall, Murray had a chance at a tip but it missed before one final attempt by DeRozan rimmed out, and the Nuggets escaped with a sweep of the miniseries.

Game Notes

  • 3pt Woes. The Spurs were 9/27 (33.3%) while the Nuggets were 14/27 (51.9%). That a +15 discrepancy in three-point shooting. The Spurs couldn’t buy a three for most of the game while on the other end they were giving them up for free. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a cold streak for San Antonio, but more of a personnel issue. The Spurs don’t have enough good 3pt shooters on their team to make up for the players who get big minutes but can’t shoot them. The Spurs are going to have to figure out a way to win when they will almost always be behind in 3pt shooting.
  • Double teams on Jokic. The Spurs chose to double team MVP candidate Jokic all night long. Yet, it never really worked. The doubles were either too late or the scrambling help wasn’t there after the pass was made and then on some occasions Jokic just made an incredible read. Joker is going to get his stats and tonight was no different, as he had 26 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for another triple double.
  • Tonight’s SVP (Spurs Valuable Player) goes to Derrick White, who finished with 25pts, 3 assist, 3 steals and a whopping +17 on the floor. There would have been no comeback without Derrick, and he played great on both ends and kept it up throughout the game. Congrats on receiving my first SVP, Derrick!

Next game: Mavericks on Sunday, 7PM CT

The Spurs look to break their streak of 5 straight losses when they travel to Dallas to play Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.