DeRozan, Aldridge lead Spurs past Nuggets 111-103
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs got a big win and an even bigger boost in confidence.
Bryn Forbes added 15 points for the resurgent Spurs (19-16), who have won eight of 10 to move within two percentage points of first-place Houston in the Southwest Division.
“It just shows you that we can go out there and compete with the best and why we should look at ourselves as one of the best teams in this league as well,” DeRozan said. “Because when we go up against the best, we perform and come out like we did tonight. It’s definitely a confidence builder for all of us to understand we can do this.”
The Nuggets (21-11) lost their second consecutive game and fell just behind Golden State for the best record in the Western Conference. Denver, which leads the Northwest Division by a half-game over Oklahoma City, is 13-3 at home but 8-8 on the road.
“They’re a hell of a team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Really well-coached, really active, really execute well. So, it’s a fine win for us. We feel really good about it, but realize we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Juancho Hernangomez tied a career high with 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Denver. Malik Beasley added 22 points and Monte Morris had 15, both off the bench, for the Nuggets. Denver center Nikola Jokic was held to four points on 1-for-5 shooting in 31 minutes.
“They played really good defense on Joker,” Hernangomez said. “They tried to keep him out of the game. They doubled every time, so I was open most of the time. I’ve been struggling. … I’m happy right now to make some shots.”
The Nuggets entered shooting 46 percent from the field this season but were limited to 39 percent by the Spurs. San Antonio also blocked four shots, all in the second half.
“It was us turning the ball over, careless passing, missing a lot of open shots,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “You also have to give them credit. They’ve been playing at a high level on both ends of the floor.”
The Spurs went on a 15-0 run after falling behind 80-79 and won for the eighth time in 10 home games.
“We showed that we can play great team defense with a lot of effort, playing together, especially in that second half,” said center Jakob Poeltl, who had six points and 11 rebounds.
Murray was held to nine points and fellow backcourt starter Torrey Craig had 10.
The Spurs, who led by as many as 18, were ahead at the end of every quarter despite a drought in the second period. Denver held San Antonio scoreless for 2:42 beginning midway through the second, but the Spurs closed the half on a 10-3 run to claim a 55-53 lead.
Nuggets: Barton (right hip), Millsap (broken right toe), Harris (right hip), Isaiah Thomas (right hip surgery), Michael Porter Jr. (lower back surgery) and Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot surgery) all missed the game due to injury. … The team’s previous win in San Antonio came on March 4, 2012. Denver is 19-74 in San Antonio, but holds a winning record over the Spurs at home (48-43).
Spurs: Rookie guard Lonnie Walker IV was active for the first time this season after injuring his right knee during the preseason, but did not play. Walker missed the first 20 games and spent the past 14 assigned to the team’s G League affiliate. … Aldridge failed to hit the rim on his only 3-point attempt. … DeRozan rolled his ankle late in the first half but quickly got up and remained in the game following a timeout.
Popovich is not a fan of playing the same opponent in back-to-back games, as the Spurs will do in facing the Nuggets again Friday in Denver.
“I hate them, they’re awful,” Popovich said. “We have six of them this year; some teams have one or two.”
Why such disdain?
“I hate them. I just hate them. I can hate them for whatever reason. You do that in the playoffs, you don’t do that now,” he said.
DeRozan became the NBA’s leading scorer among players out of USC, moving past Gus Williams for the top spot. DeRozan has 14,112 career points in 10 seasons and Williams had 14,093 in 11 seasons with Golden State, Seattle, Washington and Atlanta. The others in the top five are Paul Westphal (12,809), Bill Sharman (12,653) and Cliff Robinson (10,823).
“Really? Hell, yeah,” DeRozan said. “Aw man, I’m in there. Cool. I didn’t know that. Damn, OK. See if somebody beats that record.”
The teams meet again Friday night in Denver.