SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 30: Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on January 30, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Mark Sobhani

Last-Second Shot Misses as Nuggets Drop Thriller in San Antonio

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

SAN ANTONIO – Will Barton’s shot went up, and the entire AT&T Center held its collective breath. The game clock hit all zeroes with the ball in the air. Make that shot, and the Nuggets waltz out with a rare win in one of the toughest places to play.

“It felt good,” Barton said. “I thought it was good. I was ready for it to go in, and for us to win the game.”

The ball hit the rim, rattled around… but rimmed out.

And just like that, the Nuggets came up just short.

Tuesday night’s 106-104 loss to the Spurs was about as heartbreaking as they come. The Nuggets played one of their best games of the season, putting them in position to do what so many thought improbable, especially on the second game of a back-to-back – win.

But with time running out and with possession, the Nuggets had the final shot.

“We got a stop,” Barton said. “(Jamal Murray) pushed it; got it to Gary (Harris); Gary made a play at the rim, got it to Trey (Lyles). Trey got a guy off his feet, looked like he was going to shoot and then kicked it to me. I was ready to shoot, got a shot up and just missed it.”

Getting to that point took great performances from many players all over the court.

There was the steady play of Murray and Gary Harris, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, leading the Nuggets starting five – all of whom scored in double-figures.

There was the play of Emmanuel Mudiay, who poured in 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, making big bucket to keep the Nuggets in the game in both the second and third quarters when the Spurs threatened to open up a sizable lead.

There were funky lineups, like the super-small quintet of Mudiay, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Barton and Lyles, which injected a ton of speed and athleticism into the game. In the second quarter, those five came in with a deficit and gave the Nuggets a lead by the time starters trickled back into the lineup.

There was Darrell Arthur, who got his first start of the season and had to try and slow down Spurs All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

Neither team led by more than nine points in the game. With 2:51 left, the Nuggets were down 98-97 after a Craig dunk. The Spurs answered with a Manu Ginobili 3-point shot. Then, after Nikola Jokic answered with a bucket, the Spurs got another 3-point shot from Patty Mills to give them a 104-99 lead. Two Barton free throws drew the Nuggets to within three, but Ginobili answered with a floater that turned out to be the game-winner.

“Back-to-back tough losses,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Those are always tough to swallow. But more importantly, big picture, I loved the fight that we had tonight. Third game in four nights. Toughest place to play in the NBA, best home record. And we just kept competing.

“Really proud of them. If we continue to play like this, and compete and find ways to stay in games, we’re going to be a really good basketball team. Especially when we get fully healthy. But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys with the effort that they put forth tonight.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter