Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic lead Nuggets past Spurs for third straight win


SAN ANTONIO – It took gumption to even try it and even more skill to find its target, but that’s what a healthy Jamal Murray can do.

Murray’s devilish behind-the-back pass gave Nikola Jokic an easy dunk, and the Nuggets, temporarily, cut the tension in Monday’s thriller. His smooth find to Aaron Gordon for another easy basket with 30 seconds left essentially ended it. The Nuggets seized Monday’s contest, 115-109, thanks in large part to Murray’s calming influence.

“I love Jamal,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I love everything he’s about. … Him and Nikola are just like peanut butter and jelly.”

Murray ripped off 19 points, five rebounds and six assists, pacing Denver on a night where it was far from sharp.

Despite a frenetic second half, and an unseemly 20 turnovers, the Nuggets won for the fifth time in their last six games and improved to 7-3 on the season.

“We got away with it tonight,” Malone said.

They’ll head to Indiana on Wednesday trying to win their fourth game in a row.

Nikola Jokic registered 26 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds while Michael Porter Jr. added 24 points on four 3-pointers. Keldon Johnson led San Antonio with 30 points on five 3-pointers.

Before the game, Malone described his team’s transition game as the “carrot” for defending well. It finally paid dividends in the third quarter.

“There is no gameplan in transition,” he said. “You can’t double-team Nikola in transition.”

In fact, you can’t double-team anyone when a team flips the floor like the Nuggets did. Denver turned the Spurs over six times in the third, capitalizing with run-outs and transition chances against a scrambling San Antonio outfit. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope benefitted on one easy run-out, and Porter followed it up with another simple lay-in less than a minute later. The Nuggets built an 11-point lead only for the bench unit to give some of it back with several mistakes of their own.

Still, Denver had momentum and a 94-89 lead going into the fourth.

Malone warned his team at shootaround that the team they handled, comfortably, on Saturday wouldn’t be the same one they faced Monday night.


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