DENVER — Quite simply, the Nuggets' starters were better than the starting unit for the Spurs on Tuesday night.
DeMar DeRozan limped to a 6-of-15 shooting performance with 17 points to lead the Spurs, along with LaMarcus Aldridge, who needed 13 shots to score 17 points.
Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White rounded out the Spurs' double-digit scoring, adding 12 points apiece.
Denver's Jamal Murray led all scorers with 23 points, including 4-of-9 shooting from downtown. In the 28 minutes he was on the floor, the Nuggets outscored the Spurs by 33 points.
If the Spurs are looking for a positive, it's that they forced 13 Denver turnovers while committing just 7. On the flip side, if the Nuggets had cleaned up their ball control, this one would have been uglier.
Game 6 is Thursday night in San Antonio. Tip-off time will be 7 p.m. Central. The game will air on TNT and Fox Sports Southwest.
The Spurs started with LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor in the fourth, as well as Lonnie Walker IV getting off the bench for the first time tonight. But after a Denver three less than 30 seconds into the frame, Coach Pop called a timeout. Denver 88, San Antonio 63.
The Spurs went on to win the fourth quarter, but there was no comeback as both teams rested their starters down the home stretch.
After three, Denver leads 85-63.
Boy, that escalated quickly. The Nuggets started the third quarter on a 12-2 run, drawing a Spurs timeout. Denver made all three field goals and 4 of 5 free throws. Meanwhile, the Spurs went 1-of-3 and turned it over twice. That's a problem.
With 5:13 left in the quarter, the Spurs had managed just 7 points to the Nuggets' 20. The lead had ballooned to 24 points. By the end of the quarter, the Spurs trailed by *just* 22. The disaster of a quarter went to the Nuggets, 32-21.
At halftime, the Spurs trail 53-42.
The Spurs started to make some shots, draining 4 of their first 9 attempts in the second period. The problem is that Denver is still letting it fly from long range, and hitting at a decent clip. The Nuggets are 6-of-13 from deep. With 9 minutes left in the quarter, it was 31-28 Nuggets.
Jakob Poeltl is stepping up. The center has 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in his first 9 minutes on the court. The Spurs are +4 with him out there.
With 4 minutes left in the half, the Nuggets were back up by 9. The Spurs' DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge had trouble finding an offensive groove, combining for 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
By halftime, the Spurs got their team shooting percentage above 40, but that's still not going to cut it. Denver committed 7 turnovers but shot nearly 50 percent.
The Silver & Black were keeping Nikola Jokic off the scoreboard, but he was getting involved in other ways. The big man had 6 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists with a +/- of +16 in 20 minutes. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris needed just 17 shots to combine for 26 points in the first half.
For a comeback to happen in the second half, the Spurs will need more easy baskets. The Nuggets' defense is making life too difficult in the half-court. This Aldridge basket gave him 10 points. He was the only Spur to reach the double-digit scoring mark in the first half, and it happened in the last minute.
After one, the Nuggets lead 26-19.
The Spurs jumped out to an early 9-5 lead, but didn't hold it through the first half of the first quarter. After about 6 minutes, the game was tied, 11-11. Bryn Forbes took both attempts from behind the arc, making one of them.
Meanwhile, Derrick White was getting it done on both ends of the floor. Watch him make this steal, then patiently set up Nikola Jokic on the mismatch.
The Nuggets went on to score the next 8 points, riding the momentum to a 7-point lead at the end of the quarter.
It was a woeful offensive performance for the Silver & Black in the opening 12 minutes. The team shot 8-21 (38 percent) from the field and only DeMar DeRozan made more than one field goal. The Nuggets were led by Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, who combined for 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
The Nuggets got a last-second shot, which could come back to matter in the end.
Can lightning strike twice in five games? Of the teams that made the NBA Playoffs, the Spurs were the second-worst team at winning on the road.
So when the Silver & Black opened the series with a 101-96 win over the number 2 seed Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City, it came as a bit of a surprise.
Since then, the teams have exchanged wins. Neither club has earned consecutive victories. It turns now into a three-game series, with games Tuesday and (if necessary) Saturday in Denver. The Nuggets finished a league-best 34-7 at home during the regular season.
So the Spurs will need at least one win in enemy territory. To accomplish that, they'll need to shoot the ball better than they did in Game 4. In that game, the Silver and Black shot only 29.4 percent (5-17) from the three-point line and were 46.8 percent (37-79) from the field overall.
No matter what happens Tuesday night, fans in San Antonio will get Game 6 back at the AT&T Center on Thursday. Tip-off for that one will come at a time to be announced after the conclusion of Tuesday's games.
Game 5 begins at 8:30 p.m. Central time and can be seen on NBA TV, as well as FOX Sports Southwest.