The Spurs fell to the Nuggets again on Friday night in an up and down contest that saw the Silver and Black drag themselves back from the verge of getting blown out multiple times before finally succumbing at the buzzer to a relentless Denver attack. In the end, despite multiple chances to tie the game in the final seconds, the Spurs came up just short of a much-needed victory against one of the best teams in the West.
Derrick White paced the Spurs with 25 points while DeMar DeRozan put up 24 points and 10 assists and Jakob Poeltl added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 26 points en route to a low-key dominant triple double (14 assists and 13 rebounds) and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 22 points of his own.
- The main difference for most of the game appeared to be three point accuracy. Both teams took 27 attempts from deep, but the Nuggets made 14 to the Spurs 9. For much of the contest, the gap was much larger, though, with the Spurs’ 3rd and 4th quarter resurgences both due in part to the good guys finally finding the range from beyond the arc.
- The Spurs also struggled with unforced errors early in the game. They ended up winning the turnover battle 18-9, but had multiple inexcusable miscues in the first half alone. Rudy Gay grabbed a rebound and promptly let the ball get knocked loose off his leg out of bounds, Derrick White accidentally took a charge from Keldon Johnson in the backcourt which caused the ball to tumble out of bounds, and Devin Vassell got too close to a bad Nuggets’ miss that was bouncing over the end line and let Michael Porter Jr. throw it off him and out of bounds.
- Jakob Poeltl is an excellent defender, but guarding Nikola Jokic is a nightmare. Just defending him one on one is hard enough, but the Nuggets also use Jokic to make simple actions far more dangerous. How often does Jakob have to defend a ball handler using a stagger screen at the top of the key? And how often does he have to worry about defending a curl over one of the league’s best post players who can then instantly pop to the three point line where he’s hitting over 42% this season? Not often, obviously, but he managed the challenge as well as you could hope. Drew Eubanks, on the other hand, spent just one brief stint sharing the floor with Jokic in the 2nd quarter and it went exactly how you would expect.
- In his first action after a 9 game layoff to nurse a wrist injury, Lonnie Walker IV put together a couple of breathtaking plays. His first touch was a little tentative, but he settled in and drilled a three with a hand in his face shortly thereafter and then got out in the open court for a warp speed drive and slick drop off to Jakob for a dunk. He also had a chance to posterize Porter Jr., but lost the ball on his way up, for yet another oh, what might have been moment.
- The Spurs very nearly pulled this game out as the clock was winding down. Down 1 with 10 seconds to go, the Spurs sent Porter Jr. to the free throw line. He missed the 2nd freebie, and Keldon Johnson grabbed the rebound and raced up the floor. He drove and missed a difficult, contested layup, but DeJounte Murray got his fingers on the ball as it caromed off the rim. His tip was no good, but it fell into DeMar’s hands, who got it up on the rim. The ball just wouldn’t fall, though. Had it dropped through, the game would have went to OT, obviously, so it was no guarantee of victory, but it sure felt like it.
- Single game plus minus, yada yada yada, but it was pretty clear the Spurs’ reserves were getting blitzed on the court, and the numbers back that up. Patty Mills was a -11, Rudy Gay was -12, and in Lonnie’s first action in weeks, he managed a -19 in just over 17 minutes. Those numbers mean just about nothing about the players’ value to the team, but they were definitely an accurate encapsulation of how the game went with them on the floor tonight.
For the Nuggets fans’ perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.
The Spurs are now heading back to Texas for a Sunday night matchup with the Mavericks in Dallas. Tip off is at 7:00 pm.