Denver Nuggets 102, San Antonio Spurs 96: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

In a completely unsurprising development, a game against the San Antonio Spurs turned into a defensive back-and-forth battle, but the Denver Nuggets opened their home slate of games at Ball Arena with a 102-96 victory.

Keldon Johnson scored the first seven points of the game for San Antonio, as Nuggets head coach Michael Malone called an early timeout three minutes into the game. Neither team could find a rhythm in the opening frame and Denver eventually took a 26-22 lead into the second quarter.

The Nuggets’ second unit helped extend the lead to begin the second quarter, with JaMychal Green dropping eight points in his first seven minutes of action. Denver received 19 points off the bench in the first half, which helped overcome a slow start to the game from the opening group. It was a balanced effort for the Nuggets in the first 24 minutes, led by Nikola Jokić’s 13 points. Denver took a 53-50 lead into the halftime break and connected on 7-of-17 from beyond the arc.

San Antonio jumped out of the gates to begin the second half, using a 9-2 run to regain the lead. However, as was the case in the first half, neither team could pull away for long and the Nuggets used a 21-7 run to regain and extend their lead to 10 points toward the end of the quarter. Denver eventually took a 79-70 lead into the final quarter.

Once again, San Antonio wouldn’t go away and chipped the lead down to three points early in the fourth quarter. However, the Nuggets regained momentum once the starters checked back into the game, as Jokić went to work in the post for a couple baskets and a 3-pointer from Michael Porter Jr. pushed the lead up to nine points with four minutes remaining.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s home opener.

A second unit spark

Friday’s game was a role reversal for Denver’s second unit. After struggling in the first half against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, the Nuggets bench group provided a big boost in the opening 24 minutes against the Spurs.

19 points were distributed between JaMychal Green (eight), PJ Dozier (seven), and Facundo Campazzo (four) in the first half, as Denver was able to maintain its lead throughout the opening 24 minutes.

Although the Nuggets’ backup group wasn’t as successful in the second half, they got enough support throughout the final 24 minutes to close out the win. Green led the unit with 10 points in 14 minutes of action.

Turnovers continue to hurt

Continuing a trend from the preseason, Denver once again struggled to take care of the ball in Friday night’s game. The Nuggets committed 21 turnovers that led to 20 points for San Antonio, which gave life to a Spurs offense that otherwise struggled throughout the night.

In a defensive-oriented game, each turnover was magnified as the Nuggets couldn’t find a rhythm offensively throughout the evening.

MVP dominant once again

To no one’s surprise, Jokić got to his spots throughout the night and paced Denver’s offense. The Serbian big man finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists in the win, showcasing his dominance on the glass, playmaking, and versatile scoring abilities with ease.

In a game in which Denver struggled to take care of the ball and hit 3-pointers (just 9-of-30 from beyond the arc), the Nuggets needed everything Jokić provided to pull out the win in their home opener. It sure is nice to have the reigning MVP on your squad, sometimes.

The Nuggets return to action Monday night when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m. MT).

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