Following a embarrassing breakage loss for the humble Cavaliers on Monday, the Spurs fought better, but still fell to a superior Denver team. San Antonio followed the Nuggets for most of the competition, but it ran out of breath late, and you might wonder how the team will manage its energy levels more than a month into the season, when fatigue is already starting to get installed.
The game started with the two teams exchanging quick baskets, while the Spurs created a good look with a free attack that depended on the movement and movement of the ball. Meanwhile, Denver used Nikola Jokic’s transcendent pass, cutting into the basket, as they knew the Joker would find them, no matter how little space he had. With the recent acquisition of Aaron Gordon by the Nuggets, they now have one of the biggest starting teams in the league, and this was especially evident when it came to rebounds; Denver generated countless second chances for his own mistakes, and Michael Porter Jr. grabbed seven boards just in the first quarter.
When the two benches hit the ground, the scoreboard instantly dried up on both sides. San Antonio’s attack stalled after moving purposefully at the start of the game, resulting in isolations that generated only low percentage kicks. Gorgui Dieng, in particular, seemed lost on the court, throwing passes directly at Nuggets players and, at the same time, disturbing his teammates. On the other hand, Denver missed Jokic’s game with Javale McGee replacing him, as he struggled to create chances and resorted to desperate kicks as time passed.
However, the script changed again after the break, with Spurs scoring 12 consecutive points at the start of the third quarter. The good guys even led briefly by double digits at one point, while Denver looked confused in the attack, but it didn’t take long to regain his balance. After a time limit, the Nuggets began to generate chances at will outside their precise passes and kicks and responded to the San Antonio race with their own, scoring 11 points straight to return to the competition.
The game was still up for grabs at the time, but the good guys just couldn’t slow down Denver’s momentum and the home team increased their lead to 15 and almost guaranteed victory. The Spurs spent more than seven minutes without making a goal from the end of the third period to the beginning of the fourth, completely losing confidence in their kick in the process. Pop waved the white flag and replaced the starters with 5:30 remaining in the game, with the Nuggets finishing 106-96.
- As I mentioned above, Dieng had difficulties during his brief playing time, and it is obvious that he is still integrating into the Spurs system. I’m not too concerned with his game, since he’s only been with the team for a week, but I wonder if we’ll see him even less in the next games as he becomes more familiar with the team. Maybe Dieng will get more minutes later in the season, when he becomes more comfortable with the system, but it’s definitely an interesting story to watch.
- The Nuggets overcame Spurs by 53-42 overall, and I really expected a bigger discrepancy between the two teams. However, I don’t think that should be a big concern, because it has more to do with style of play and personal than anything else, but if San Antonio wants to recover on Friday, they will need to do a better job of Denver containment on the plates.
- In the last 19 games, the Nuggets are at 16-3 and have also won seven in a row. Denver has been one of the hottest teams in the league for over a month and is a legitimate threat to the title, so a defeat like that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The real problem with the Spurs recently has been the games they lost, like the bombing they took from Cleveland on Monday and also the defeat to the Pacers, who were without Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon. Losses against opponents like the Nuggets are quite tolerable when they win the games they should, but, unfortunately, that was not the case.
- Jakob Poeltl did a decent job of containing Jokić in the painting, but was exposed whenever he was brought in to defend the perimeter. Porter Jr. passed him straight for an easy dunk in the first quarter and was also knocked down by him later in the game which resulted in three free throws, so the Spurs need to find better ways to keep Poeltl in the play to play for their strengths.
- After averaging almost 27 points in the last four games, Demar DeRozan was limited to just 14 tonight and looked like he had nothing left in the tank in the second half. San Antonio’s schedule only gets tougher from here, so I don’t expect the team to hold him to rest, but that could also result in a drop in DeRozan’s performance. Spurs need to find a delicate balance to keep their players up to date, and I honestly don’t know how they plan to do that.
Next game: vs. Nuggets on Friday
Denver seems to be peaking at the right time, so it will be difficult to win, but perhaps the Spurs’ desperation could give them a chance on Friday.