Denver Nuggets 121, San Antonio Spurs 119: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets have secured their eighth win in a row and made some history in the process after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 121-119 at Ball Arena.

This is the longest win streak in Michael Malone’s tenure as head coach and the longest consecutive run of victories since 2013. It is an accomplishment that speaks volumes to the current direction of the franchise under Tim Connelly and his front office. It is also impressive as it is the second-straight victory without lead guard Jamal Murray. Denver has the longest win streak in the NBA and could be just a half-game out of third place depending on the result of the Clippers’ game against the Rockets Friday night.

The Nuggets seized control from the tip-off and didn’t relent in the first half, leading by as many as 18 before heading into the break. However, San Antonio would rally in the final 24 minutes. Gregg Popovich's team took advantage of 18 turnovers by Denver, which they converted into 30 points. The Spurs cut the deficit to just a point before the Nuggets would ice the game late on free throws.

"I thought first half, especially that second quarter, the defense was really good. And then that third and fourth quarter, 33 points [in the third] and then 36 in the fourth; a big part of that was our turnovers," Malone said. "We’re lucky to win this game, that’s the reality. I love the fact that I think we’ve won eight in a row and we’re 17-3 now in our last 20. Terrific. But, like we talked pregame, we can’t turn the ball over like that." 

Malone’s team secured the season series against Popovich’s team. It will now look ahead to the final contest of its five-game homestand at Ball Arena when it faces the Boston Celtics in a Sunday matinee game (1 p.m. MT, NBA TV, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Pass-masters

The Nuggets pride themselves on being an unselfish team. They took it to another level Friday.

The team racked up 32 assists and as good as that was, there were certainly more to be had as the team excelled in dribble penetration and finding the open man throughout the contest.

While Nikola Jokić was the catalyst with 14 dimes, the Nuggets also got strong playmaking efforts from Will Barton III (five assists) and Facundo Campazzo (four assists).

Although Denver was effective in creating opportunities, it will have to monitor its recent issues with turnovers. Before Friday’s contest, the team was averaging 15 giveaways a game (23rd in the NBA in that stretch) in its last three contests. The 30 points surrendered on turnovers almost cost the Nuggets the game.

Big Game Tae

Monte Morris has earned his place in the NBA for being one of the league’s most efficient guards. He’s taken it up a notch since his return from injury. The Nuggets’ backup playmaker averaged 9.0 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field in his last three games. He had another strong showing Friday.

Morris connected on a career-high five threes to wrap up the night with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting overall. As good as he was offensively, Morris also had a strong night on the other end. He played a big part in guarding Spurs’ guards Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Patty Mills. Murray and Mills combined for 6 of 23. His performance was a big reason why he would end up closing out the game with the starters in the fourth quarter. A top outing for one of the steadiest guards in the league.

"Our ability to comeback and win the third quarter was crucial and Monte was a very big part of that," Malone said. "I thought the last two games, bringing him off the bench, allowing him to play extended minutes, has allowed him to really get in a rhythm and play at a high level. Monte has been terrific and he’s only going to get better as he continues to get back in game shape.” 

Another Triple-Double

One of the best parts of having fans back at Ball Arena is hearing fans chant MVP all night long for Jokić. It’s well-deserved and Nuggets fans are being treated to arguably the best individual season by a player in franchise history. Jokić was superb once again Friday night.

The Serbian picked up his 13th triple-double of the season, placing him second just above third-placed James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets. Jokić was solid in the first half, but he took over in the final 24 minutes. The superstar center had 14 of his final tally in the last two quarters.

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