Nuggets keep rolling at home, hold off Spurs 102-99
DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets keep right on rolling. Not just ankles, either.
Murray scored 31 points despite turning his right ankle late in the fourth quarter, Monte Morris hit two big free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining and the Nuggets held off the San Antonio Spurs 102-99 on Friday night to extend their home winning streak to eight.
After the game, Murray eased into his dress shoe, wincing in pain.
“Feeling great,” he said. “Feeling sensational.”
Murray wasn’t the only one to land wrong. Malik Beasley had 21 points, but rolled his left ankle on a drive in the fourth quarter. He made two free throws before exiting.
“I’ll be good. I’m a mutant,” Beasley pronounced. “I’ll be all right.”
Nikola Jokic added 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists before fouling out as the Nuggets nearly squandered an 18-point, first-half lead. Bryn Forbes had a 3-point look to tie the game in the final second but couldn’t get it launched in time over Trey Lyles.
“We try to show our guys what we think they’re going to run, to give them an awareness,” coach Michael Malone said.
Just then, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich walked by and playfully lobbed in his thoughts.
“Love you, too,” Malone cracked as Popovich continued down the hallway.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 24 points for San Antonio, while DeMar DeRozan added 15.
The Spurs, the top free throw shooting team in the league, went 4 of 8 from the line over the final 1:48. They were 11 of 20 for the game.
“None of us go out there and miss free throws,” DeRozan said. “We’ve been great all year. We gave ourselves countless opportunities to be able to take the lead, tie the game up and give ourselves a great chance to win.”
It was the second game of a home-and-home between the teams. The Spurs won 111-103 in San Antonio on Wednesday. In that game, DeRozan and Aldridge combined for 57 points.
“They’re a good team over there. They play well together, they move the ball, so we had to take some things away,” Aldridge said.
The Nuggets remained percentage points ahead of Golden State for the top mark in the Western Conference despite missing starters Paul Millsap, Will Barton and Gary Harris due to injuries.
San Antonio turned up the defense in the second half to climb back into the game. Trailing 100-98 with 28 seconds remaining, Derrick White made one of two free throws. Morris then was fouled on a drive to the basket and made both. Morris finished with seven points, five rebounds and seven assists.
“The littlest guy on the floor, least experienced guy on the floor coming up in big, big ways time and time again,” Malone said.
Spurs: F/C Pau Gasol (right foot) made the trip with the team and is getting closer to a return. ... Popovich called a timeout just 46 seconds into the game.
Nuggets: Harris (right hip) and Millsap (fractured right big toe) are nearing a return. ... Mason Plumlee had 13 rebounds.
White grew up in the area and played a season at the University of Colorado. He’s gone from sporadically playing for the Spurs last season — he also helped the Austin Spurs win the 2018 G League championship — to becoming their starting guard.
White had 10 points on Friday.
“He’s just a young man who’s gaining confidence day by day,” Popovich said. “Just believing he belongs is really the important thing for him.”
Jokic drew a crowd, but kept finding the open player before fouling out with 1:33 left. That was a departure from Wednesday when he was held to four points.
“It’s like a playoff series where you make adjustments,” Murray said. “We made some key adjustments to give him some space to work.”
Seeing Murray in pain after turning his ankle, Malone was going to send in Morris.
“I saw him running toward the corner, like he was going to the tunnel,” Malone said. “He pulled a Willis Reed on us and did a U-turn and came back on the court.”
Murray said there was never a doubt he would keep playing.
Spurs: Visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Nuggets: At Phoenix on Saturday. The Nuggets are 3-0 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
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