Posted on April 28, 2019, by Travis Pulver
As the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets would not normally be expected to have a hard time in the first round. But they were not playing just any old, run of the mill 7-seed. No, they were facing a savvy San Antonio Spurs team coached by one of the best in the business, Greg Popovich.
Winning the series would not be easy—and it wasn’t. But in the end, with a gritty effort in Game Seven Saturday night, that is exactly what they did.
Denver got out to an early lead with a 12-2 run to start the game. Their defense kept the Spurs from getting their offense on track and held San Antonio to just 13 points in the first quarter. But the Spurs got within seven late in the second. The Nuggets responded with a late burst to make the score 47-34 at the half.
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It went from bad to worse for San Antonio went the third quarter. Their defense wasn’t doing a bad job, but no one could buy a bucket. As a result, the Nuggets were eventually able to stretch their lead out to 17-points, 67-50, with 4:14 left in the third.
But a Gregg Popovich coached team can never be counted out. They began to gain some ground in the final minutes of the third with an 11-5 run to make the score 72-61 heading into the fourth quarter. Slowly but surely, they were able to whittle away at the Nuggets lead until it was down to just two points with 52.2 seconds left.
Jamal Murray pushed the lead back out to four points, 90-86. But the Spurs were only able to attempt one more shot, a four-footer by DeMar DeRozan that was blocked.
It wasn’t pretty, but by holding on to win, 90-86, the Nuggets earned the right to host the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
San Antonio needed to play well on both sides of the court to win. While they played on defense, they struggled to make shots all day long. But as a team, they were a dismal 36.5 percent from the floor and hit only six of 23 three-point attempts. LaMarcus Aldridge was just 6-16 from the floor and DeMar DeRozan was 7-21.
Game Three’s hero, Derrick White, failed to make a single shot, 0-7.
Denver’s stars struggled to hit their shots as well. Jamal Murray was 9-19 for 23 points. Nikola Jokic went 9-26 but ended the day with a triple-double, 21 points, 15 rebounds 10 assists. As a team, they shot just 39.8 percent from the floor and made only two of 20 three-point attempts.
“I love the grit, the resiliency, the toughness we played with tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game, via ESPN. “Even late when they made their run … we never lost our composure.”
They will certainly need to hit a few more baskets, two and three-pointers, if they are going to have a shot against the Trail Blazers in the next round. Game One will be Monday night in Denver.