The visiting Denver Nuggets are finally firing on all cylinders and look to build on that momentum when they square off against the struggling San Antonio Spurs on Monday in the second game of a home-and-home mini-series between the teams.
The Nuggets captured the first game of the set 126-101 on Saturday in Denver. Bones Hyland led Denver with 24 points off the bench after missing two consecutive games with a hip strain.
“I just felt like the basket was opening up, like an ocean out there,” Hyland said. “I was just having fun. Once I get in that mode, it’s like unstoppable.”
Two-time reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic added 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting along with 10 assists in the win despite sitting out the fourth quarter. Michael Porter Jr. racked up 15 points and nine rebounds, Jamal Murray amassed 13 points and nine assists, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit for 12 points and DeAndre Jordan had 10 for the Nuggets, who are 4-0 at home.
Denver recorded 37 assists in the game and made 60.9 percent of its shots after shooting 66.7 percent in the first half while building a 70-51 lead.
“We have a very unselfish team, and we did some good things (Saturday),” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the win. “I’m just so happy we’re playing well at home. Last year, we were not a very good home team.”
Denver is just 2-3 away from home. Monday’s contest is the first of a four-game road trip for the Nuggets.
Keldon Johnson led the Spurs with a game-high 25 points against Denver on Saturday, with Devin Vassell scoring 20 off the bench. Jakob Poeltl finished with 14 to go along with eight rebounds for San Antonio, which has dropped three straight.
Saturday’s game was the second of a home-road back-to-back and followed a 113-106 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“They (Denver) made a lot of shots tonight,” Poeltl said. “We kind of let ourselves down in the sense that we stopped fighting. We let them get in our heads by just them making shots. We stopped running. We stopped doing the things we usually do like getting up into them.”
The Spurs got to within 15 points early in the third quarter, but Denver responded with a 12-0 run to push its lead to 86-59. The Nuggets led 99-76 after three quarters and cruised to the finish line with most of their starters on the bench for the final period.
“We just got to be mentally prepared to start out the game,” Johnson said. “We’ll bounce back. We’re a young team. I feel like we’ll be ready come Monday. We’ll be fine. We’ll weather the storm, and we’ll bounce back.”
After winning five of their first seven games, San Antonio has regressed to the learning-on-the-fly group that the Spurs were expected to be entering the season. And things get no easier — Monday’s game is the first of the three-game homestand that also features visits from Memphis and Milwaukee.
–Field Level Media