Spurs-Denver Nuggets first-round playoff series at a glance
(Nuggets lead best-of-seven series tied 3-2)
Game 1: Spurs 101, Nuggets 96, Saturday, Denver
Game 2: Nuggets 114, Spurs 105, Tuesday, Denver
Game 3: Spurs 118, Nuggets 108, Thursday, San Antonio
Game 4: Nuggets 117, Spurs 103, Saturday, San Antonio
Game 5: Nuggets 108, Spurs 90, Tuesday, Denver
Game 6: Nuggets at Spurs, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Game 7*: Spurs at Nuggets, Saturday, TBD
* If necessary
(All times central)
The Spurs failed miserably in their bid to keep the Denver Nuggets from becoming the first team in the first-round playoff series to win back-to-back games.
San Antonio and Denver traded victories in the first four games, but the Nuggets ended the trend in Game 5 on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Jamal Murray scored 23 points and Nikola Jokic had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists as the Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 108-90 rout that pushed the Silver and Black to the brink of playoff elimination.
Game 6 is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
"They just outplayed us in every facet of the game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We missed a lot of chippies in the first half. It could have been a much more even game in the first half. We missed a lot at the rim.
"But, I think, overall, their competitiveness. They got five threes in the first quarter. They just played well in every way. We've got to have more guys playing well for sure."
Denver shot 50 percent from the field overall (39-78) and 42.4 percent (14-33) from the three-point line. The Nuggets also kept the Silver and Black scrambling with their ball movement, getting 25 assists on their 39 made field goals.
The Spurs made 37 of 90 shots from the field for 41.1 percent and were 29.2 percent (7-24) from beyond the arc.
Finishing two assists shy of a triple-double, Jokic hit 5 of 11 shots, including 2 of 4 from three-point range. Popovich was effusive in his praise of Jokic, who is in the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"He's a great player," Popovich said. "Every great player is a challenge. He can do a little bit of everything, and he does all of those things well. He's a total, consummate team player who has great skills, but he's also competitive. Does a great job. He's got a very high basketball IQ."
The Nuggets, who tied the series Saturday in San Antonio, led by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter. They were up 26-19 after one quarter and 53-42 at the half.
Denver outscored the Spurs 12-2 to start the second half, and took a 65-44 lead with 9:21 left in third quarter. The game looked a lot like the 113-85 whipping the Nuggets put on the Spurs in their last regular-season meeting on April 3 in Denver.
Ahead by 11 at the half, the Nuggets started the third quarter with a 12-2 run to extend the lead to 21 (65-44) and take control of the game with 9:26 left in the period.
Murray and Jokic were among seven Nuggets players who scored in double figures Tuesday night. The other five were Will Barton (17), Gary Harris (15), Paul Millsap (14), Malik Beasley (11) and Monte Morris (10).
Murray knocked down 4 of 9 three-pointers and Harris made 3 of 5. Millsap and Beasley had two treys apiece and Barton had one.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge led the San Antonio scoring with 17 points each. Aldridge also finished with 10 rebounds to get a double-double, but DeRozan had only four rebounds and one assist.
Jakob Poeltl (12) and Derrick White (12) rounded out the Silver and Black's double-figure scoring.
"We've got to come out, be aggressive," DeRozan said, when he was asked what the Spurs need to do to win Game 6. "I think we were aggressive tonight. We missed a lot of easy shots in the paint. We've got to get out there, find our rhythm, score, and get a couple of more stops. I think we'll be fine."
Top reserves Marco Belinelli (6), Rudy Gay (6), Patty Mills (5) and Davis Bertans (3) had a tough night, combining for only 21 points on 9-of-29 shooting. Mills scored 12 points in Game 4, but he was only 2-8 from the field, including 1 of 5 from the three-point line.
Gay, who scored only two points and was 0 for 7 from the field in Game 4, made 3 of 9 shots and was 0 of 2 from long distance.
In the playoffs for the first time in six years, the Nuggets advanced to the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They finished the regular season 54-28, just three games behind defending champion Golden State. Denver also was a league-best 34-7 at home.
The youngest team in the playoffs, the Nuggets have grown up quickly in the series against the seventh-seeded Spurs, who are in the postseason for the 22nd consecutive season.
"They came out tonight, did what they were supposed to do," DeRozan sad. "They shifted the momentum winning on our home court last game. We knew they were going to have confidence coming home. Shake their hand. They beat us down pretty bad. It's all about how we respond Thursday night."
Aldridge, with 10 points, was the only Spur in double figures at the half. The Silver and Black shot 40.9 percent overall (18-44) and 33.3 percent (3-9) from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.
San Antonio had a chance to cut the halftime deficit to under 10 points, but Aldridge missed an uncontested layup. It was that kind of game for the Silver and Black.
Harris and Murray led the Nuggets' first-half scoring with 13 points each. Denver shot 48.8 percent overall (21-43) and 38.9 percent (7-18) from the three-point line in the first half.
The Spurs were up 9-5 in the opening quarter before the Nuggets went on a 14-2 run in a span of 4:32 to take a 19-11 lead. San Antonio played from behind the rest of the game.
The Silver and Black's last lead (9-8) was at 8:43 before Paul Millsap hit a three-pointer nailed a three-pointer to give Denver its first lead (11-9). Derrick White scored on a reverse layup to tie the game, but the Nuggets went ahead to stay on a three-pointer by Harris that made it 14-11 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.