The Spurs fought harder than they did at any point in their 2-7 home stand slide, but the disparity in talent and experience took over in the final quarter as the Nuggets got every loose ball and turned the extra possessions into baskets as they put the game out of reach late. This kind of effort from the Spurs might have been enough against the bad teams they recently lost to, but not against an elite contender like Denver. The Spurs did have some good moments in the game, but they lost themselves and the game with a cold spell that started midway through the third quarter and continued until garbage time with about 4 minutes left. Spurs fans did get to see Tre Jones, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Luka Samanic get some court time, and they actually made the final score look a bit more respectable at the end by outplaying Bol Bol and the Nuggets garbage time cleanup crew — and San Antonio winning the battle of the deep benches is something that hasn’t happened practically all year.
The same two teams will be back at it on Friday night, and maybe, just maybe we can see the Spurs keep up the kind of effort we saw in the early parts of the game for more than a few minutes at a time, because you can’t beat good teams when the entire team goes into a shell for big chunks of the game.
- Usually, the player who absolutely kills the Spurs isn’t necessarily the best player on the other team, it’s the guy that Pop leaves open to try and contain the best player. Monday night, it was Darius Garland, even though the Spurs didn’t really slow Collin Sexton that much. I wonder who it’s going to be tonight? [Spoiler: it was Jokic all along.]
- Gorgui Dieng made a clean steal at the end of the first quarter, but there’s no justice, it was called a steal by the myopic guy in the striped shirt. (OK, it’s gray.) Dieng still looks like the injured shoulder was bothering him, and his shot wasn’t accurate tonight. But you could say that about most of the players on the Spurs.
- The Nuggets were already incredibly talented, but the addition of Aaron Gordon has really added another dimension to their offense, and the acquisition of Javale McGee as a backup center really makes them one of the most talented teams in the league.
- Jamal Murray’s absence due to injury meant that the main distributor on the Nuggets was the center, Jokic, who really excels at the point center position.
- Derrick White still has an inconsistent shot, but he does so much on defense, drawing charges and blocking shots, he’s still a valuable player even if he’s not scoring. Once he gets his shot right, he’s going to be very dangerous.
- Jokic’s outlet passes are magic. If he throws the ball the length of the field, and he hits a player running the court perfectly in stride. It gave them easily 4 or 5 easy baskets in the game.
- Once again, the Spurs bench was outplayed by the opponents, bench, with much of the damage being done on offensive rebounds and turnovers. Javale McGee did a terrific job leading the Nuggets bench mob whenever Jokic was resting, and never gave the Spurs a chance to take advantage of the big Serbian’s absence.
The Spur rushed out to a quick 11-6 lead paced by Keldon’s snaky moves the basket and a sweet Keldon steal where kept Michael Porter Jr. on his hip all of the way downcourt for a slow break hoop. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets back with crafty passing and running the floor, but the scrappy Spur kept fighting, if not always skillfully, at least hard. A few uncharacteristic Jokic misses on wide open shots also helped the Spurs cause as they led 32-30 after one.
The Spurs started off the second quarter on a hot streak to build their lead to seven, but the old bugaboo of poor transition defense let the Nuggets climb back into it to tie it up at 38 behind their bench led by 3 time NBA champion JaVale McGee. Mike Malone created a little drama by protesting a non-call on Jokic with a torrent of profanity directed at the referee. after his ejection, the Spurs tied things up and were able to keep it relatively close, but the poor shooting from the Silver and Black have the Nuggets ahead 54-50 at the half.
The Spurs came out of the locker room with a purpose after the halftime break, with a quick 10-0 run led by Derrick White’s clutch defense. The Nuggets didn’t score at all the first 4 minutes of the quarter, but then they decided to go to Jokic every time down the floor. There’s nobody on the Spurs who can stop the big Serbian, and he single-handledly brough the Nuggets back into it, tying it back up at taking the lead 69-68 halfway through the quarter. The Spurs lost a little bit of composure, with DeRozan picking up a tech after complaining about a call and not getting back on defense, which led to a Jokic touchdown pass basket. Despite the promising start, the Spurs were outscored 27-24 in the third and trailed by 7 going into the final frame.
The Nuggets started the fourth by showing why they’re one of the best teams in the league as they completely shut down the Spurs bench and got to every loose ball and turned the extra possessions into easy points as the stretched the lead to 15 as the Spurs went over 7 minutes with only one field goal. They took the Spurs out of the game and it was over with 5 minutes left as both teams put in the end of their respective benches.
Something big is on the way. Watch out!
What’s Next . . .
For the Nuggets fans perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.
The Spurs have a rematch against the Nuggets on Friday night at 8:00 PM, and I can’t think of another place I’d rather be than in front of the TV watching the Spurs. How about you?