The Denver Nuggets are moving on to the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. It wasn't easy, but they held off a furious comeback by the Spurs in the fourth quarter of Game 7 on Saturday night for a 90-86 victory.
Up by 17 points late in the third quarter, it seemed the Nuggets were on their way to a statement victory. But the defensive effort they used to build their lead early in the game started to fade, and the Spurs started to take advantage. With just under a minute to play, they cut the deficit to just two points after a Bryn Forbes dunk.
But on the next possession, Jamal Murray hit an outrageous floater to put the Nuggets up by four, and they held on from there. Nikola Jokic finished with another triple-double, putting up 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, while Murray added 23 points. The Nuggets will now face the Portland Trail Blazers in round two.
Here are a few takeaways from Game 7:
Nuggets' defense shows up early, fades late
The Nuggets had one of the best defenses in the regular season, but had struggled at times against the Spurs in the first round, especially in regards to guards like Derrick White careening past their perimeter players. But in Game 7, the Nuggets' elite defense showed up. They were flying all over the place and set the tone in the first quarter by stifling the Spurs to the extent that they were in danger of setting a playoff record for fewest points scored in a quarter.
But whether it was fatigue or a matter of letting off the gas when they got a big lead, they collapsed on that side of the ball in the second half, as the Spurs started torching them on drives, leading to all sorts of open looks that fueled their big comeback.
Spurs make inexplicable decision not to foul
After DeMar DeRozan missed a shot with just 27 seconds to go, the Spurs were in a tough spot down being down four without the ball. But there was still enough time for them to foul, make the Nuggets hit free throws and extend the game. For some reason, however, the Spurs never fouled. Despite Gregg Popovich screaming from the sideline, and even coming a few feet onto the floor to try and get the message across, the Spurs just sat back. Happy to run the clock down, the Nuggets just controlled the ball near half-court before Jamal Murray launched a 3-pointer to prevent a shot clock violation. Even though the Spurs got the rebound, there was no time left for them to do anything.
Jokic does it again
There were plenty of questions about how Nikola Jokic would fare in his postseason debut, and his passive performance in the Nuggets' Game 1 loss only fueled them. From that point though, Jokic was fantastic, and he put together another strong game on Saturday night. He didn't have the most efficient night shooting the ball, but he was strong on the glass and threw some incredible passes yet again. With 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, Jokic recorded his second triple-double of the series, and just the 10th in a Game 7 in NBA postseason history.
Playoff series results (Nuggets win series, 4-3)
- Game 1 (at DEN): Spurs 101, Nuggets 96 (Box Score)
- Game 2 (at DEN): Nuggets 114, Spurs 105 (Box Score)
- Game 3 (at SA): Spurs 118, Nuggets 108 (Box Score)
- Game 4 (at SA): Nuggets 117, Spurs 103 (Box Score)
- Game 5 (at DEN): Nuggets 108, Spurs 90 (Box Score)
- Game 6 (at SA): Spurs 120, Nuggets 103 (Box Score)
- Game 7 (at DEN): Nuggets 90, Spurs 86 (Box Score)