SAN ANTONIO — For Nikola Jokic, the December of double-doubles got here to a powerful finish within the Denver Nuggets’ 111-103 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, with the middle taking simply 5 photographs on the night, together with just one try within the second half.
Nonetheless, Nuggets coach Michael Malone expressed his belief in Jokic, saying he has “little question” the middle will bounce back Friday when the groups meet once more on the Pepsi Heart in Denver.
“He is a man that I belief. Clearly tonight, he is obtained to perceive how he is being performed,” Malone mentioned. “That is in all probability the most important frustration tonight: Each time he put the ball down, they have been coming. The turnovers have been in all probability extra irritating than the dearth of taking pictures.
“I belief Nikola. If he thinks he is open, he is going to shoot it. If he would not suppose it is open, he is going to make a play for someone. Nikola’s been taking part in at a really excessive degree. Clearly, tonight was a tricky night for him.”
Jokic had produced double-doubles in eight of his previous 9 video games headed into Wednesday’s matchup in opposition to the Spurs, who continuously attacked the middle with double-teams all through the competition. Jokic linked on simply one in every of his 4 subject objective makes an attempt within the first half for 3 factors, to go together with seven assists. However Jokic additionally dedicated two of Denver’s 4 first-half turnovers, because the Nuggets headed to the locker room at intermission down 55-53.
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Jokic completed with a game-high 5 turnovers. He scored simply 4 factors however added 10 assists.
“I used to be aggressive,” Jokic mentioned. “The folks have been coming, and after they got here towards me, I simply threw the ball to the opposite guys. I feel I performed not nice, however I performed good. We’ll see them once more within the subsequent two days.”
Jokic’s 5 photographs tied for his third-lowest complete of the season. Coming into this sport, Denver really owned a report of 5-1 when Jokic took fewer than 10 photographs. The one loss got here in November in an outing during which the middle tried just one shot, a miss with three seconds remaining and the Nuggets down 2.
After that tilt, Nuggets ahead Mason Plumlee mentioned, “Plenty of our offense is thru him, so he has to take the initiative to take photographs.” Two days later, when Denver confronted the Brooklyn Nets, Jokic hoisted up 22 photographs, which on the time was a season excessive and even now ranks as his second-highest shot complete of the marketing campaign.
“I feel we did a very good job on him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mentioned of Jokic after Wednesday’s sport. “We misplaced a couple of different folks, the perimeter guys. They actually shot some 3s effectively. However we did a fairly good job on Nikola. He had assists. If he is not scoring, he is helping for certain. He is a heck of a participant.”
With Jokic nearly neutralized by San Antonio’s fixed double-teams, the Nuggets relied on robust efforts from Juan Hernangomez (27 factors) and Malik Beasley (22 factors), because the group hit 18 makes an attempt from lengthy vary within the loss.
“They performed actually good protection on Jokic,” Hernangomez mentioned. “They only took Jokic out of the sport. They know he is our greatest participant. Once they double on him, now we have to make alternatives for the remainder of the group and make photographs. We did not make that many photographs.”
Nuggets rookie guard Monte Morris supplied his tackle Jokic.
“I really feel like they have been trapping him a lot it was onerous for him to get appears,” Morris mentioned. “We have been operating stuff for him, however he cannot shoot it while you’re getting trapped as soon as you contact it. That is the factor with being like a big-time all-star. We noticed them tonight. So we all know how they are going to play him the subsequent sport.”
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The Spurs dominated inside, with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 27 factors on 13-of-19 taking pictures as they outscored the opposition 48-28 within the paint. And DeMar DeRozan poured in a game-high 30 factors.
“The fact is that this: Once you’re down three starters, you want your different two starters to step up and play effectively,” Malone mentioned. “We simply did not get that tonight. However I do know Jamal [Murray] and Nikola will bounce back and be prepared for the subsequent sport.”
Murray shot Four-of-19 for 9 factors and dedicated two of the group’s 12 turnovers.