What a difference a few healthy players and some pinpoint three-point shooting can make.
With Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green back in the lineup and backup Davis Bertans matching his career high with six three-pointers, the Spurs coasted to a 112-80 blowout of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night at the AT&T Center.
Leonard led the Spurs (29-15) with 19 points and Bertans had 18 on 6-of-8 shooting, including 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. The Silver and Black bounced back from a 93-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday that coach Gregg Popovich called a "pathetic performance."
LaMarcus Aldridge (15) and Green rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Spurs, who improved to a league-best 19-2 at home. Green made 3 of 5 three-pointers and guard Bryn Forbes came off the bench to hit 2 of 4.
"Any mistake that you make they usually make you pay for it," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "We did not guard the three-point line for 48 minutes tonight. How many times can you tell guys that Davis Bertans is a three-pointer shooter, and he goes 6 for 7 from the three-point line?
"So, that was a big part of it, not being able to guard the three-point line, and they just wore us down as the game went along."
The Spurs were so dominant that they led by as many as 38 points and the Nuggets (22-21) never led.The Silver and Black were up 32-16 after one quarter, 56-44 at the half, and 82-69 going into the fourth period.
Leonard, Parker and Green all started against the Nuggets after missing the game against the Lakers with injuries. Veteran backup forward Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) is still out.
"Trying to find our rhythm together," Aldridge said. "We haven't had many games where everyone helped. It definitely felt good tonight."
Bertans set the tone for the Spurs' deadly long-range shooting early, burying three three-pointers in the first quarter. The Silver and Black hit 14 of 27 threes (51.9 percent) for the game and shot 52.6 percent overall (41/78). They had 24 assists on their 41 made field goals.
"It's easy to get some of the good looks that I was getting," said Bertans, a 6-foot-10 forward from Latvia. "The second three was a deep one and the shot clock (was winding down). No pressure on those, and if it goes in, it's a great rhythm shot."
Bertans scored 28 points and drained six threes, both career highs, in a 107-100 road win over the Sacramento Kings last Monday.
"He's really played with a lot of confidence," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "The ball is moving well and he's taking advantage of it. It's a skill that is hard to figure out sometimes. Some guys get that skill, some don't. You get better, but you can't let somebody else shoot it the way Davis does. So he's doing a fine job of working hard at the other end, too."
Popovich likes the way Bertans has worked to improve his defense.
"It's always been kind of a weakness for him, but he's starting to figure out how to move his feet, how not to foul, do his work early and get in position," Popovidh said. "He's not the quickest guy, but he's going to play really smart and is fortunately a smart player. We just want to make him better in a basketball sense."
Leonard looked strong on both ends of the court while playing in only his ninth game since returning from a battle with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps. He missed the first 27 games of the season before making his debut Dec. 12.
Leonard played 28 minutes Saturday night, hitting 5 of 8 shots and adding eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"He looked confident and confident in his body," Popovich said. "He also wasn't really winded tonight either, which surprised me, so I think he's coming along well."
Nikola Jokle and Gary Harris led the Nuggets' scoring with 23 and 18 points, respectively. They were the only Denver players in double figures.
The Nuggets shot 34.9 percent (29-83) overall and 25 percent (7/28) from the three-point line.
The Spurs play the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.
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