DeMar DeRozan, Spurs Hang On to Upset Nikola Jokic, Nuggets 101-96 in Game 1

DeMar DeRozan, Spurs Hang On to Upset Nikola Jokic, Nuggets 101-96 in Game 1
DENVER, CO - APRIL 13: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Denver Nuggets during Game One of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 13, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

DeMar DeRozan posted 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists as the No. 7 seed San Antonio Spurs upset the No. 2 Denver Nuggets 101-96 on Saturday in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Denver had the ball down 97-96 with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Nuggets guard Jamal Murray missed a potential game-winning jumper.

Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed the rebound, got fouled and hit two free throws to give San Antonio a 99-96 lead with 6.9 seconds left.

The Nuggets, who did not have any timeouts, then tried to rush down the floor. However, Spurs guard Derrick White stole the ball at midcourt and sealed the win with two free throws.

Five players scored 14 or more points for the Spurs: White had 16, Aldridge and Bryn Forbes pitched in 15 and Rudy Gay added 14.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic posted a 10-point, 14-rebound, 14-assist triple-double.

Murray scored 17 points and added six steals. Gary Harris led Denver with 20 points.


Spurs Must Win Perimeter Battle to Pull Off Series Upset

The Spurs entered Saturday as the NBA‘s top three-point shooting team. The Nuggets began the playoffs as the league’s top three-point defending club.

San Antonio emerged as the winner of their perimeter battle thanks to making seven of 15 three-pointers, which was the key to the team’s success on a night where DeRozan and Aldridge combined to make just 12 of 36 field goals.

The Spurs made three-pointers when needed most. San Antonio guard Bryn Forbes hit one of his three to answer a Torrey Craig triple and give his team an 86-80 edge:

Denver clawed back, but then Davis Bertans hit another three to give the Spurs a 93-87 lead:

The Spurs’ formula for success is fairly simple: If they shoot like they did on Saturday, then the Nuggets are going to have a significant problem. San Antonio makes its threes at a 39.2 percent clip, and Denver ranks 17th at 35.1 percent.

Granted, Denver made just six of 28 three-pointers on Saturday, and chances are they won’t hit just 21.4 percent of their shots from beyond the arc again in this series.

However, we could see more games where the Spurs win thanks to their proficiency from beyond the arc, even though Denver clearly has the best player on the floor in Jokic. 

Unsurprisingly, the Spurs’ three-point shooting correlates with their team success. San Antonio is 21-4 when it shoots 44.0 percent or better from beyond the arc, according to Basketball Reference. Victories in those 25 games include wins against 10 playoff teams.

That shooting will be crucial for the team’s postseason success because the Spurs can’t rely on their defensive efficiency like they have in championship years past. This team is far different, ranking 18th in that statistic per

However, the Spurs can light it up from deep, and that could be enough to upset the Nuggets here.


Nuggets Need Bench Production to Reach Full Potential

The Denver reserves had more fouls (four) than made field goals (three) after the first half. They combined to score just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting, and three of the four reserves finished the first 24 minutes with a minus-10 mark.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio bench clearly outclassed Denver. More accurately, Rudy Gay did so by himself.

The 13-year veteran outscored the Nuggets bench, 12-9. He and Marco Belinelli combined to score 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

In fairness, what we saw is an anomaly: The Denver reserves had the seventh-best net rating in the league, per, as well as the league’s No. 5 offensive rating. They aren’t going to be pushed around for the remainder of this series and fared better in the second half, with Beasley leading the unit with 10 points.

But the Spurs bench is one of the NBA’s best, tied for fifth in net rating. San Antonio has reserves capable of lighting it up from deep for a Spurs team that ranks sixth in offensive efficiency, per

The Nuggets’ reserves may simply need to overmatch their offensive firepower, a task that’s feasible given the efforts of Monte Morris and Beasley.

Morris, a second-year guard, has averaged 10.4 points on 49.3 percent shooting (41.4 percent from three-point range). He’s also second on the team with 7.4 assists per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.

Beasley, a third-year wing, has enjoyed a breakout campaign thanks to 11.3 points on 47.4 percent shooting (40.2 percent from three-point range). Paul Garcia of Project Spurs pointed out Beasley’s proficiency from beyond the three-point line:

T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports pointed out his importance as well:

Those two players are the only ones on the Nuggets roster to make more than 36.7 percent of their threes. Their success is critical for Denver’s postseason campaign, especially against more proficient three-point shooting teams like San Antonio.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News also pointed out the Nuggets bench as one of the keys to the series:

Ultimately, the Nuggets hung around in this game in part because the reserves were able to succeed in the second half, thanks in part to Beasley’s efforts, Torrey Craig’s two threes, a solid all-around effort from Mason Plumlee and a few dimes from Morris. That quartet will be called upon to help Denver climb back into this series.


What’s Next?

Denver will host San Antonio for Game 2 on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Read More


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here