Denver Nuggets 117, San Antonio Spurs 103: Three Takeaways From Game 4

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

In what was essentially a must-win game, the Denver Nuggets’ offense broke out of a mini-slump and led Denver to a strong 117-103 victory in Game 4. With the win, the Nuggets have tied up the series 2-2 against the San Antonio Spurs, as the series now shifts back to Denver.

"This was a collective effort,” said Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who finished with 24 points and six assists on 8-of-14 shooting. “We all believed in each other and know what we're capable of doing. We haven't won here in a while, so it feels good to go back home 2-2."

The Spurs jumped out to a 34-22 lead after one quarter, as Denver struggled mightily on offense. The Nuggets shot 6-of-19 from the field and had only one assist in the quarter, a sharp reversal from the team’s style of play that brought them success throughout the season. As was the case in Game 2, Denver’s bench turned things around in the second quarter, which allowed the Nuggets to outscore the Spurs 32-20 in the frame. Denver’s offense reversed trends and had 12 assists in the second quarter as the teams went into the halftime break all tied up at 54. Nikola Jokić was active early and finished the half with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

The Nuggets’ offense came alive in the third quarter as they scored 37 points and held San Antonio to just 25. Denver knocked down five 3-pointers in the quarter as Jokić continued to attack offensively. The All-Star big man had 11 points in the quarter as the Nuggets took a 91-79 lead into the final frame. The Nuggets would extend their lead to 15 after the first couple minutes of the final quarter and maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

"I'm very proud of our guys,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “Jamal Murray responded from Game 3, Torrey Craig goes out there and plays phenomenal on both ends of the floor. It was a hell of a win for us."

Key takeaways:

1) Slow starts continue to hurt Nuggets

For the fourth-consecutive game, the Nuggets fell behind early in the game, as the lineup change that inserted Torrey Craig in Will Barton’s spot didn’t have the intended effect that Michael Malone was hoping for. The Spurs won the first quarter 34-22 and have won the first quarter in each game this series. As mentioned earlier, Denver posted 1 assist in the quarter and shot 6-of-19 from the field, pinpointing the team’s struggles on the offensive end.

Allowing the Spurs to jump out to early leads gives them confidence and also puts pressure on Denver’s bench to quickly get back into the game. Luckily for the Nuggets, their bench has been thriving since the series shifted to San Antonio, which has allowed them to get back into the past two games. However, Denver will need to return to the drawing board before Game 5 to solve the early woes.

2) Denver’s offense comes alive

It’s no secret that the Nuggets’ offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders throughout this first-round series. However, in Game 4, Denver’s offense used a combination of strong shooting and ball movement to breakdown San Antonio’s defense. Denver finished with 25 assists and knocked down 15 3-pointers in the victory. After a slow start to the game, Denver scored 95 points over the final three quarters.

"Everybody stepped up,” Malone said. “I saw a confidence and belief in one-another, that is necessary to come in here and win a game like this."

3) Torrey Craig makes his mark

The notable change heading into Game 4 was Malone’s decision to insert Craig into the starting lineup, and did Craig certainly stood out in Denver’s win. The defensive-minded wing finished with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from three. However, Craig still brought is usual high-level defense, as he added two steals and a highlight-worthy block in the fourth quarter. Craig played 37 minutes in the win and figures to be a crucial piece to the puzzle for the Nuggets moving forward in the series.

The series now returns to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. MT, WATCH: ALTITUDE, NBA TV, RADIO: KKSE-FM 92.5).

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