The San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 123-111 last night in the Alamo City. The Spurs led the whole way and, aside from getting within four late in the third quarter, the Nuggets never really looked like they stood a chance.
Aside from Nikola Jokic putting up a rather pitiful triple-double and Aaron Gordan owning the paint on the offensive end, the Spurs played a perfect game on both ends of the floor. It has to be addressed that the Nuggets are on their sixth game of a seventh game road trip and won against New Orleans in overtime the night before. Those factors, paired with an injury-riddled season, have pushed Denver to a 12-13 record after Thursday’s loss.
The Spurs won on the solid play of the entire team, including over 20 points each for both Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV, who are starting to hit their stride. Devin Vassell was limited to 17 minutes after coming back from a quad injury but played well and was aggressive on both ends of the floor. Dejounte Murray was great, as always, and he and Jakob Poeltl both nearly had triple-doubles. Murray was two rebounds and an assist shy and Poeltl was short three assists and one board.
Josh Primo only got one minute, but that's good news
The only thing that was surprising from the game was Joshua Primo only played in the final 43 seconds of garbage time. With Vassell slowly coming back from injury and Keldon Johnson missing tonight’s game with an ankle injury, it seemed like Primo would get some heavy playing time. Fellow Air Alamo writer Dylan Carter even suggested Primo may even start, although that was quickly proven to be a pipe dream.
Based on Primo’s historical play recently, I initially was upset by his lack of minutes but was soon shut down. Murray, Walker, and White all played very, very well, and Doug McDermott had a good game too. On top of that, Tre Jones exhibited good ball-handling and heads-up defense, and the remaining minutes seemed to be given to Vassell to rehabilitate him into the lineup. Bryn Forbes and Primo played a combined seven minutes simply because the team didn’t need them.
Over the last four games, Forbes has been scoring 13 points on 45% shooting from deep, which is exactly the role the Spurs wanted him to play when they brought him back. Primo has been a defensive menace, so in most games, it would make sense for the Spurs to play them both and give them plenty of minutes at that.
Well, the win last night was not like most games. The Spurs dominated from start to finish, mostly on the play of their backcourt. At the end of the bench, Primo and Forbes only really get in if they’re needed or if anyone is struggling, and no one was tonight, so their number wasn’t called.
In most games, White, Murray, Vassell, Jones, and Walker don’t all get hot, so the role of bench scorer gets passed around. Thursday, the hot hand (Forbes) and fan-favorite (Primo) were just the odd men out, and they weren’t missed.
This bodes very well for the Spurs. If everyone is playing well, there’s no reason to lose, and if one or two players fall in a game and need to be subbed out, it’s great to know there are two very good and solid options on the bench ready to go at a moment's notice.