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Nuggets rookie Nikola Jokic has breakout performance, Denver falls to San Antonio Spurs

An Nguyen Avatar
November 19, 2015


The Denver Nuggets came into San Antonio looking to make a statement and do the improbable: steal a win against a Western Conference powerhouse on the second night of a back to back. Despite showing much more fight than their last back to back, the Nuggets never managed to catch up to the Spurs with their deadliest weapon in Danilo Gallinari being locked up by reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs won it 109-98 despite a good fight from the Nuggets.


First Quarter – Starters: Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson

This season head coach Michael Malone has been a godsend for Harris allowing him to play through his mistakes without fear of being thrown in the doghouse. Tonight Malone saw his faith come into fruition as Harris had his fingerprints all over the first quarter as he hit his first four shots and made a couple of nice defensive plays.

Nikola Jokic came in with 6:31 left in the first and had a similar impact to Harris. He ran the pick and roll to perfection with three different partners in Jameer Nelson, Will Barton and Gallinari. He also had a nice steal and offensive rebound before getting fouled:

Patty Mills came in for 8 points off the bench as he showed his ability to catch fire in an instant. LaMarcus Aldridge started off strong with 6 points as Leonard prevented Gallinari from scoring a single basket.

End of first: Spurs up 31-24.

Second Quarter – Starters: Nelson, Randy Foye, Barton, Darrell Arthur, Jokic

It was the Barton and Jokic show as the two put on an absolute clinic making plays on both ends of the court:

Jokic led all Nuggets in scoring with 12 points and 7 rebounds in just the first half. The rookie made it harder and harder to keep him off the court with his excellent play on both ends.

The starters came in and continued the pressure as Mudiay showed off the floater he was working on just two days ago:

I’d love to see this move for a long time coming from Mudiay, he can get it whenever he wants and players like him are usually better with instinctive shots like floaters or fadeaways than set shots. Think Derrick Rose. If he masters it, Mudiay will truly become unguardable in the pick and roll.

Despite all the good that happened, Gallo still did not have a make from the field. Kawhi was doing his job and it showed on the scoreboard.

End of second: Spurs up 65-58

Third Quarter – Starters: Mudiay, Harris, Barton, Gallinari, Hickson

Malone decided he’s had enough of Tony Parker and came out of the half with Harris defending him. It actually caused Parker to be even more aggressive as he scored two quick buckets back to back including an up-and-under that fooled Harris badly.

Jokic continued to finish everything he was given while Gallinari finally made a basket against the suffocating defense of Leonard.

Despite this, the Nuggets’ inability to stop the Spurs guards on defense allowed them to maintain a lead throughout the third quarter. Parker and Mills had 23 and 15 respectively while Jokic led the Nuggets with 18.

End of third: Spurs up 93-79

Fourth Quarter – Starters: Nelson, Foye, Barton, Arthur, Jokic

Denver fought admirably for a team on the second game of a back to back but were visibly gassed — even Jokic who only logged 40 seconds in last night’s win against the Pelicans. That didn’t matter much as the rookie continued his breakout game while huffing and puffing his way to 23 points and 12 boards. Incredible numbers from Jokic and an all around great game as he continued to make his case for more consistent minutes regardless of match-ups.

Unfortunately the efforts weren’t enough as the Nuggets never managed to claw their way back into the game, in large part due to Foye’s horrific fourth quarter performance featuring four bricks on four attempts, a turnover and a shooting foul all within just six crucial minutes. Foye is a nice guy, and definitely has his moments, but it’s time to allocate his minutes elsewhere. He’s as harmful on the court as last year’s J.J. Hickson. Consider me on the Mike Miller bandwagon.

Final: Spurs win 109-98.


AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX | Nov. 18th | Regular Season Game 12 (6-6)


Jokic broke out in style with 23 points (8-13 FG, 1-1 from three), 12 boards, 3 blocks and 2 steals as he had his fingerprints all over the game tonight.

He even hit his first career three:


Jokic with the back to back blocks on Aldridge. Very reminiscent of Jusuf Nurkic on Marc Gasol:

Mudiay with the pocket pass to Faried for the Manimal slam.

Malone with the very active coaching, gotta love that.



Gallinari was held to just 2-9 shooting by Leonard for a measly 9 points. I detailed in my preview that the Italian Stallion would have to be a huge part in a Nuggets win and now we see the recipe for success is a failure without that key ingredient. The Nuggets will not win many games where Gallo scores single digits.

Mudiay’s shooting struggles continued as he scored just 5 points on 2-12 shooting. Definitely a game to forget for the youngster, although he contributed a solid seven assists on just two turnovers. This is one of those games where we remember he’s only a 19-year-old kid.


The Nuggets continue to stay afloat at .500 with a record of 6-6 on the season, despite a plethora of injuries to the front court. Joffrey Lauvergne and Nurkic cannot get back soon enough and if the Nuggets can continue to tread water, it’ll do wonders for the end-of-the-season playoff race. A lasting impact I’d absolutely love to see is for Jokic to get more minutes — consistent ones that he can count on regardless of gameflow or matchups. The 20-year-old is a huge part of the Nuggets’ future as well as already extremely productive. It’s better to go through his growing pains sooner rather than later, just like Malone is doing with Mudiay and Harris; especially when you consider the Nuggets’ shooting and spacing woes.


The Nuggets fly back to Denver to get ready for a rematch against the Phoenix Suns who blew them out just a week ago. Tip off is Friday, Nov. 20th at the Pepsi Center, 7:00 MT.


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