The Denver Nuggets will look to capture their eighth straight game and win the season series with the struggling San Antonio Spurs on Friday when the two teams square off in the second game of a two-games-in-three-nights set in the Mile High City.
The Nuggets shrugged off some early doldrums and beat San Antonio 106-96 on Wednesday in the first of the mini-series. The game was the second of a home back-to-back for Denver, which rolled past Detroit on Tuesday.
Nikola Jokic scored 25 points, distributed 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds in the win over the Spurs, while Michael Porter Jr. added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets and Will Barton III hit for 14 points for Denver.
The Nuggets have captured 12 of their 15 games since the All-Star break and are 6-0 since acquiring Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee at the NBA’s trade deadline.
“At this point of the season we’re good,” Jokic said. “At the beginning of the season we were trying to find ourselves but right now we’re playing really well.”
The Nuggets looked worse for the wear early on, trailing late in the second quarter before finding their stride against the Spurs, opening up a huge lead midway through the final period and winning their seventh straight contest.
Denver coach Michael Malone was forced to watch the final two and a half quarters of the game from a TV in the locker room after receiving two technical fouls for arguing a non-call against Jokic midway through the second quarter.
“That’s been brewing for a while,” Malone said after the game. “Watching the game on TV is probably like what the front office does. They probably sit there during the game and say, ‘What the hell’s he doing?'”
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White led the Spurs with 18 points each, with DeMar DeRozan scoring 14 and Patty Mills hitting for 12 points off the bench. San Antonio is reeling, having lost four consecutive games and eight of its past 10 outings.
“Poor play by too many people,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said of Wednesday’s loss “(The) second team’s got to play better. You just look at the plus/minus from the last few games — first team is doing pretty well, but off the bench we’ve been just destroyed, and it happened again tonight.”
San Antonio was good enough on defense to win on Wednesday and showed a marked improvement over its performance on its recent homestand, when it lost seven times in nine games, allowed at least 125 points in five of those defeats and at least 132 in four of them.
Murray said the Spurs’ effort in practice is not carrying over to the games.
“We look good in shootarounds,” Murray explained. “When we do practice, it looks damn near perfect. But it’s got to translate. … We got to figure it out. Take pride in playing defense and having your teammates’ back.
“We gave Denver a lot of second chances (on Wednesday). We got to play through it. We got to toughen up and play for 48 minutes. Watch some film and be ready to go. It’s the NBA.”
Things can begin to turn around for the Spurs with a victory on Friday. San Antonio beat the Nuggets 119-109 at home on Jan. 29, so it understands the winning formula.
–Field Level Media