- With their season potentially on the ropes, the Nuggets responded with an emphatic Game 4 victory against the Spurs. It ended Denver's 14-game losing streak against Gregg Popovich's bunch in San Antonio.
Over the final stretch of the regular season, and throughout the initial start of the postseason, the Nuggets had appeared to be fading. A first-round playoff matchup with the steady and experienced Spurs proved testy for Denver’s young squad from the get-go. But after an abysmal showing in Game 1, a lackluster effort that necessitated a heroic performance from Jamal Murray in Game 2, and another dud in Game 3, the Nuggets bounced back and notched a monumental road win against San Antonio in Saturday’s Game 4.
Denver had not won a game in San Antonio—including the playoffs—since March 4, 2012, prior to the victory. The Spurs had defeated the Nuggets 14 consecutive times on their home floor and considering the trend, Game 4 presented an opportunity to really put Denver’s playoff aspirations on the ropes. However, from the start of the contest, the Nuggets were resilient, staging a performance that resembled that of the team that jostled with the two-time reigning champion Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference for much of the season.
Denver’s Game 4 victory was truly a collective effort, but its star players were at the center of its success.
Nikola Jokic—a player many pundits remain unsettled over his fringe-star status—looked as aggressive as he has since the series began, foregoing distribution in favor of attacking the basket himself. It resulted in the Serbian tallying a postseason-high 29 points (he attempted a playoff-high 22 shots), in addition to 12 rebounds and a team-leading eight assists. His willingness to attack San Antonio center Jakob Poeltl resulted in points not only for himself but his teammates as well. The Nuggets’ offense appeared to be at its most efficient when Jokic was working down in the post, then determining whether to kick the ball out when San Antonio collapsed on him near the block or going up with an effort himself.
As Jokic seemed to get back to his top offensive form, Denver also appeared to find its way in transition. The Spurs, initially, seemed content trading baskets with the Nuggets by scoring early in the shot clock. But it would go on to play to Denver’s advantage. Often on Saturday, when the Nuggets would collect the ball in their own backcourt—whether it was after a San Antonio field goal or miss—ballhandlers immediately sought to push the ball up the floor. The matchup was at the type of pace that benefits Denver’s style of play. In fact, over one 24-minute stretch during the contest, the Nuggets had assisted on 16 field goals without committing a turnover.
Murray used an impressive third-quarter effort to surge Denver ahead. He scored nine points and added three assists during the frame as the Nuggets took a 91–79 lead into the fourth quarter. Murray finished with 24 points and six assists. The effort, in tandem with productive showings from Torrey Craig—who scored 18 points after starting in place of Will Barton (12 points)—it was enough to help Denver comfortably wrap up a significant victory.
With the win, the second-seeded Nuggets regain their home-court advantage in the series and, perhaps more importantly, avoid going down 3–1 against a Gregg Popovich-led team that is unlikely to squander such an opportunity, particularly against such an inexperienced Denver squad. But as young as they are, the Nuggets have shown fight and resolve. The series is certainly not over, and the task is unquestionably tough. But Saturday was a reminder of just how dominant they can be when firing on all cylinders.