For three quarters, Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets looked like the team so many thought they would be. Murray couldn’t throw water into a well and early on the San Antonio Spurs were well on their way to taking a 2-0 lead back to Texas, a dejected Nuggets team in tow.
Fortunately for Denver, in the fourth quarter Jamal Murray found his bearings. The Blue Arrow caught fire and lit up the Spurs for 21 points in the final frame, leading the Nuggets to a 114-105 come-from-behind win. Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris had outstanding performances to keep the Nuggets afloat, even when San Antonio had a 19 point margin in the second quarter.
Every starter aside from Will Barton finished with 20+ points in an extremely well-balanced effort. Barton finished 1-10 with just three points. Millsap was exceptional, especially in the first quarter. Foul trouble unfortunately ate up most of his playing time.
LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan got theirs tonight, putting up 24 and 31 points respectively. It was just a two-man show for San Antonio, however. The only other Spur to show signs of life was Derrick White who once again impressed in front of his hometown crowd.
The Nuggets should certainly be content they pulled this off (after all, they are the best in the league in closing games) but by no means did they play well. The series may be tied but if some adjustments aren’t made their season will end sooner than later.
Will Barton was awful, awful, awful. Will Barton was the biggest negative on the night. He was 1-10, 0-6 from three and couldn’t defend. He was so bad Malone couldn’t even put him on the court in the fourth quarter. He’s a good player but something just isn’t right with him at this point, and he’s now a liability. There’s just no way he should start Thursday’s game, especially after how good Malik Beasley was when he replaced Barton.
Denver’s perimeter defense is still suspect. After holding LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan to combined 12-38 shooting in Game 1, we all knew the time would come when they would start hitting shots. It came fast. They combined for 12-25 in the first half alone (DeRozan had 17 in the second quarter). That’s fine. What’s not fine is the continuously missed assignments on the other guys. Every guard got burned all night, but the biggest culprit by far was Murray on Derrick White. He didn’t stand a chance when trying to contain White; White got by him any chance he wanted. Denver caught a break on this one as White was the only other Spur to make an impact.
Shooting: Better. The Nuggets are at their best when Jokic is surrounded by shooters than can actually hit their shots. This was certainly in question after Game 1, but Game 2 the team rebounded nicely. Denver finished 10-24 from deep, good for 41.7% and a vast improvement from Saturday. Everyone got involved, too. Harris, Murray and Jokic each made multiple attempts and Millsap was 1-for-1. Malik Beasley drained two timely triples off the bench late in the game to help spur the Denver comeback. Great shooting night all around. Side note: hit your damn free throws.