Jokic just missed his 13th triple-double of the season. Michael Porter Jr. added 18 points and 10 rebounds in the opener of the two-game set in Denver.
The Nuggets have won seven in a row and has yet to lose in six games since Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee came over in trade-deadline deals. Gordon had nine points, and McGee provided energy off the bench in the second half.
”At this point of the season we’re good,” Jokic said. ”At the beginning of the season we were trying to find ourselves but right now we’re playing really well.”
Derrick White and Dejounte Murray scored 18 points each for struggling San Antonio. The Spurs hit the road for five games after going 2-7 at home, including a 24-point loss to Cleveland on Monday night.
”Poor play by too many people,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ”Second team’s got to play better. You just look at the plus/minus from the last few games – first team is doing pretty well, but off the bench we’ve been just destroyed and it happened again tonight.”
The teams will meet again Friday night.
Denver coach Michael Malone got two technicals and was ejected with 5:32 left in the first half for yelling at the officials following a Jokic turnover.
”Physical play,” Malone said. ”That’s been brewing for a while and my job as a head coach is to fight and protect all of my players, and tonight I did that.”
The Nuggets led 54-50 at halftime but the Spurs opened the third on an 18-4 run to lead by 10. Denver scored the next 11 points and finished the third quarter on a 23-6 run to lead by seven heading into the fourth.
Denver quickly built a double-digit lead and went ahead by 20 on Porter’s 3-pointer.
”We gave them a lot of second chances,” said Murray, who returned after missing a game with a sore right foot. ”We got to play through it. We got to play through it. We got to toughen up and play for 48 minutes.”
Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV (right wrist soreness), Trey Lyles (right ankle sprain) and Keita Bates-Diop (right hamstring strain) continued to be sidelined. ”As you might imagine with the type of injuries they have, it’s just a process,” Popovich said about Bates-Diop and Lyles. ”They’re getting closer and closer.”
Nuggets: F Paul Millsap was inactive for rest. … Malone said G Monte Morris won’t log heavy minutes for now. He played in his second game after missing 11 with a right quad strain. He finished with seven points in 19 minutes.
MURRAY SITS AGAIN
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was out of the lineup for the second straight game with right knee soreness. With the compact schedule Malone said he needs to manage Murray’s workload.
”We’re in the middle of six games in nine nights, three games in four nights, so the schedule has obviously been very demanding,” Malone said. ”We’ve asked a lot of Nikola, Jamal, all of our guys, and he’s banged up, so he needs this rest to try and get back as healthy as possible this season.”
Malone joked at the end of his postgame zoom interview that Jokic offered to pay his expected fine for being ejected.
”The best part about it is Nikola ran up to me after the game and said, `Coach, I’ve got your back, whatever comes your way I got the wallet out,”’ Malone said. ”I really appreciate it.”
Jokic rolled with the joke.
”I have no option right now. He threw me under the bus,” he said. ”He’s got your back, the whole team’s got my back. It’s the easiest thing I can do for him.”