San Antonio Spurs Drop First of Back-to-Back Against the Denver Nuggets 126-101

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Tre Jones and the San Antonio Spurs role players struggled on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
(Credit: Spurs - https://www.nba.com/spurs/photos/photos-spurs-vs-nuggets-11-5)

When San Antonio Spurs head Gregg Popovich runs back the film from Saturday night’s game in Denver, he’s undoubtedly going to time-mark 4:39 of the first quarter. That was the last time his team had it close against the Denver Nuggets. The home team outscored San Antonio 15-6 to close out the frame with an 11-point lead. As hard as they tried, it was just too much of a gap to cover. The Nuggets took the game 126-101.

Not Enough Contributions from the “Other Guys”

The Spurs have gone through a lot in the last two weeks dealing with injuries and outside noise. Returning from injury, Keldon Johnson seemed to find his footing throughout the game, pacing San Antonio in scoring with a game-high 25 points. Playing with a minutes restriction, Devin Vassell was just behind Johnson, adding 20 points of his own off the bench. Behind their young studs, the Spurs’ depth just couldn’t hang with Denver’s.

San Antonio’s main key to victory in the young season has been sharing the ball, an element the team struggled with on Saturday. In their wins, the team has averaged more than 30 assists. Against the Nuggets, however, the offense was a touch stagnant with 28 assisted buckets. That certainly wasn’t helped by key role players having off nights as well. Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson combined for just 10 points. Just nights after being a starter, Keita Bates-Diop saw his role largely relegated to garbage time in the closing minutes. It makes Popovich’s decision to start rookie Malaki Branham that much more head-scratching.

Denver Struck Gold From the Floor

The Nuggets are a true contender in the Western Conference, and they showed why on Saturday. As a squad, Denver connected on 60 percent of their attempts from the floor. From beyond the arc, the Nuggets were deadly efficient, hitting 51 percent, outscoring the Spurs by nine. They also owned the glass, out-rebounding San Antonio 53-35. Nikola Jokic was on track for a triple-double but fell short with 21 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds, though that’s not to take anything away from him. The reigning back-to-back MVP missed just one shot all evening. Bones Hyland had a great performance off the bench, scoring a team-high 24 points. He was one of six Nuggets to score double digits.

The only knock on Denver could be that they didn’t separate quite enough. Even down the stretch, San Antonio had their moments where they looked like they might close the gap and make things interesting. Both teams started calling their big dogs off early, however, with so much of the season left to go. They have now won four of their last five.

Up Next For the San Antonio Spurs

Denver and San Antonio both have a day off before they meet each other again in the Alamo City on Monday. With the home crowd behind them, it will be interesting to see how the Spurs play. They are just 2-3 at the AT&T Center, coming off of a loss on Friday night to the Los Angeles Clippers. The day off to recover on Sunday will surely be welcome for the banged-up squad. Tip-off on Monday is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT.

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