The San Antonio Spurs lost a close game to the Denver Nuggets 102-98 in a contest marked by the absence of 6 important Spurs players.
With this loss, the Spurs have been defeated in consecutive games for the first time all season.
Gregg Popovich chose to deploy mainly his second unit for this game, giving some key players some much needed rest in this back end of a back-to-back. His starting lineup for this game consisted of Andre Miller, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson, David West, and Tim Duncan.
West was active early, scoring the first 6 points of the game for the Spurs. Emmanuel Mudiay provided an early boost on offense for the Nuggets, coupled with Nikola Jokic actively crashing the boards.
The Spurs shot only 33% from the field in the opening quarter, but found themselves only down 24-18 after the 1st quarter.
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Duncan and Kevin Martin came alive in the 2nd quarter, and the Spurs were able to retake the lead going into halftime 53-51 behind a 35 point 2nd quarter. Will Barton and Jusuf Nurkic helped Mudiay out with the Nuggets’ scoring, although Nurkic looked overmatched against Duncan on the defensive end.
The Nuggets shot an atrocious 1-6 from deep in the first half, and their 9 first half turnovers prevented them from taking advantage of a short-handed Spurs team early.
The Nuggets lead in fast-break points 9-5 in the first half, dictating the pace of the game. They’re a top 10 team in fast-break points, and most comfortable with a faster tempo. They shot an impressive 52% in the first half as well.
The Nuggets opened the 3rd quarter on a 12-4 run. Patty Mills was only 1-9 shooting through the first 3 quarters, but dished out 7 assists during that same span, ensuring that he was still having an impact on the Spurs’ offense. The Nuggets had a 77-72 lead at the end of the 3rd.
The game was tight as the 4th quarter progressed. Nurkic continued to fill up the stat sheet as the Nuggets sought to beat an elite opponent, albeit without their normal lineup in the game.
It was a tie game with under a minute and a half remaining. Martin hit two key free throws, and West protected the lead on the other end with a key block, but was eventually called for defensive goaltending after Nurkic’s follow up. West contributed 5 blocks this game, making his presence known on both ends of the court.
On a misguided pass by Mills to Martin, Gary Harris stole the ball and was fouled by Martin, setting up two made free throws by the Nuggets to take a 100-98 lead.
With 17 seconds remaining, the Spurs inbounded successfully, but Gary Harris eventually stole the ball again and coasted for a dunk to put the game out of reach.
Duncan and Nurkic tied for the game lead with 21 points apiece.
The Spurs (65-14) play next against the Golden State Warriors in San Antonio on Sunday. The Nuggets (33-47) also play next on Sunday in Denver against the Utah Jazz.