The San Antonio Spurs (29-38) gave it a good effort but the one-two combo of Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. proved to be too much to overcome in a 132-126 loss to the Denver Nuggets (43-25) on Wednesday afternoon.
The loss is the second straight for San Antonio, who have won three of their last five games. The defeat also puts the Spurs a full game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for ninth place in the Western Conference.
Drew Eubanks had a solid game with 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. Patty Mills added 14 in 22 minutes on 60 percent shooting. San Antonio struggled to start the game, trailing 14-4 early but would rally back to trail 32-28 at the end of the first quarter.
The Spurs struggled to contain the inside scoring from Nikola Jokic, who finished with 25 points and 11 assists as he picked apart the San Antonio defense down low. Michael Porter Jr. had a game-high 30 points to go along with 15 rebounds. As the game wore on, San Antonio could not defend the paint and that would become their undoing for the second consecutive game.
“Porter’s a fine young talent and Jokic, he’s like a reincarnation of Larry Bird, he does everything,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said of Denver’s dangerous two-some.
Three Standout Players
For the second straight game, Rudy Gay led the Spurs off the bench in a time when his team needed it the most. He was aggressive in looking for his shot, rebounded well, and found his teammates for open shots.
Gay finished with 24 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with four rebounds and four assists. San Antonio knows they can rely on Gay’s shooting ability and to create his own shot, which he has done for two of the four games in the bubble to try and help the Spurs seek out another postseason berth.
The former Colorado Buffalo is quickly turning into the Spurs’ best player. The time in the bubble has only helped his overall development and fans can rest easy knowing White will be a part of the franchise’s future.
White scored 23 points and dished out seven assists in the loss. However, he has been stepping things up defensively as he gets steals and sacrifices his body to draw the charging foul. That will only make him a better player all around for the future.
“He puts his body on the line a lot more than what he’s given credit for,” Spurs guard Patty Mills said of White’s defense.
Speaking of bright futures, the Spurs have found a gem in Keldon Johnson. In the bubble, he has blossomed before everyone’s eyes and Popovich has found ways to use him on defense in certain situations, making him grow and learn to trust the rookie.
Johnson scored a career-high 20 points in the loss to go along with six rebounds and two assists. He converted both of his three-point attempts and can slash his way to the rim, making him a very dangerous player.
“He’s shooting the ball a little bit better than I expected,” Pop said of Johnson.
The Spurs are now 29-38 on the season and will return to the court on Friday afternoon when they face the Utah Jazz (43-25) at 12 p.m.