While there have been some dramatic moments in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, there hasn’t been much drama with regards to how many of the series have finished. Only two of the eight series have reached a sixth game, and on Thursday San Antonio took care of Denver to force a seventh game in that series. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan led the way as five Spurs finished the game in double figures, and Gregg Popovich’s team shot 57.1% from the field. Below is a look at the only game on Thursday’s schedule.
Spurs 120, Nuggets 103
About the only good thing to come out of this game for Denver was the play of Nikola Jokic, who racked up a career-high 43 points (19-of-30 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) with 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 38 minutes played. Jokic scored just 16 points in Denver’s Game 5 win, but that was a game in which the Nuggets were balanced offensively. Seven players scored ten points or more Tuesday night, but the number was down to four Thursday with Jokic being the only player to score more than 16 points. San Antonio finished with five double-digit scorers, with three (Aldridge, DeRozan and Gay) scoring between 19 and 26 points.
Jamal Murray added 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting, and he also accounted for six assists, three rebounds and one three-pointer in 35 minutes. Gary Harris scored 14 with two assists, one rebound and two 3-pointers, and Paul Millsap finished with 12 points and four rebounds. In addition to the struggles in defending the Spurs, Denver also failed to get much production from its bench. Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Will Barton combined to score eight points on 4-of-19 shooting from the field, with Morris supplementing his four-point night with three assists and two rebounds. Beasley and Barton finished with identical lines of two points, two rebounds and one steal, with the former shooting 1-of-6 from the field and the latter 1-of-7.
With starter Torrey Craig (five points, six rebounds, six assists and one steal) not being much of a threat offensively, Denver can ill afford to have the aforementioned trio struggle to put up points with the second unit. Each of the Nuggets five starters played at least 33 minutes, with Beasley (20 minutes), Barton (19) and Morris (14) receiving the majority of the bench minutes. Mason Plumlee tallied five points, three rebounds and one block in eight minutes, with Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles and Jarred Vanderbilt not seeing any action until the game’s final two minutes.
Heading into Game 7 Denver will also have an injury issue to address, as Murray suffered a deep bruise in his left thigh after he took a Jakob Poeltl knee while attempting to fight through a screen early in the third quarter. After spending some time on the exercise bike in order to stay warm, Murray was back in the game. This is the second time in the series that Murray, who was seen limping around the locker room after the game, has taken a Poeltl knee to the thigh.
As for San Antonio, the veteran trio of Aldridge, DeRozan and Gay led the way offensively. Aldridge tallied 26 points (10-of-18 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), ten rebounds, five assists, one blocked shot and one three-pointer in 38 minutes. By no means is Aldridge a prolific three-point shooter (that’s common knowledge at this point in his career), but he’s made one in each of the last three games (3-of-6). The three 3-point attempts Thursday are the most he’s had in a game since March 18 vs. Golden State (1-of-3). DeRozan added 25 points (12-of-16 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), seven rebounds and seven assists, and Gay finished the night with 19 points (7-of-11 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers.
Gay shot 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, leading the Spurs in makes on a night in which the team made ten of its 24 attempts. Denver shot 6-of-24, and the 12-point difference helped nullify Denver’s 72-36 edge in paint points. Derrick White, who Denver did a good job of keeping out of the paint in Game 5, scored 13 points with two assists, one rebound and two 3-pointers and Bryn Forbes accounted for 12 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers.
Marco Belinelli, who shot a combined 2-of-6 from three in San Antonio’s two games prior, shot 2-of-4 Thursday and finished with nine points, two rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. The only Spur to truly struggle from three was Patty Mills, who missed all seven of his attempts and finished six points (3-of-12 FGs), six assists, three steals and two rebounds. Gay (28 minutes), Mills (25) and Belinelli were the only reserves to play quality minutes when the outcome was in doubt, with Donatas Montiejunas, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham and Lonnie Walker IV not checking in until late. Three of the five starters played at least 30 minutes, with White and Poeltl (eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and one block) playing 28 minutes apiece.
Warriors @ Clippers, 10:00 PM (ESPN)
No injury concerns for either team heading into Friday’s Game 6. The Clippers did not have any players listed on Thursday’s final injury report, and the only two Warriors listed (DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones) were already out of the lineup.