Spurs host Nuggets, hoping to force Game 7
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Denver strutted, shot and defended its way to a pivotal Game 5 win over San Antonio on Tuesday and is one win away from clinching a spot in the Western Conference semifinals.
But the Nuggets don't expect the seventh-seeded Spurs to go quietly when they meet Thursday night in the Alamo City in Game 6 of the first-round series.
The second-seeded Nuggets, who lost the series opener at home and nearly lost the second, head back to Texas after Tuesday's dominating 108-90 win in Denver. They are on the cusp of their first postseason series victory since 2009, when they reached the Western Conference finals.
Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic said he expects Game 6 to be the "toughest game of our lives."
Denver snapped a 14-game, seven-year losing streak in San Antonio with a 117-103 victory in Game 4 on Saturday.
The Nuggets carried that momentum into Tuesday and dominated Game 5, leading by 11 at the half and by as many as 30 points in the final quarter to seize their first lead of the series. Jamal Murray paced Denver with 23 points, one of seven Nuggets in double figures.
Jokic added 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and remained the hub of Denver's offense.
"What's remarkable about Nikola is he has that consistency," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "You expect greatness from him every night."
Denver's defense had a lot to say about the Game 5 win. In a 5:21 span of the first quarter, the Spurs managed only one field goal and missed seven consecutive shots. In the second quarter, San Antonio was held to another stretch of more than five minutes with just one made basket.
After Denver began the third quarter on a 17-4 run, the Spurs were all but forced to concede.
"They just outplayed us in every facet," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We missed a lot at the rim early, or it could have been a much more competitive first half. We've got to have more guys playing well for sure."
Malone labeled the Nuggets' third-quarter performance, in which they scored 32 points and led by as many as 28, one of their best of the season.
"We didn't even have to call any offensive sets," Malone said. "We were just playing the game, and obviously San Antonio's a team that started that many years ago, the beautiful game. But it's really fun to watch, as a coach, as a fan. And our guys thrive off that."
LaMarcus Aldridge, a non-factor in the series despite leading San Antonio through the regular season, paced the Spurs in Game 5 with 17 points and 10 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan added 17 points, but made just 6 of 15 shots from the field.
"There's always somebody that steps up in the playoffs," Popovich said. "You look for people to step up who aren't your major players. Every winning team, there's someone who seems to do that."
It seems like a lifetime ago when San Antonio held a 2-1 lead and owned the home-court edge against the Nuggets. Now the Spurs have to fight for their playoff lives to force a deciding seventh game in Denver on Saturday.
"We want to win two straight," Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. "That's our goal, to play the best two games we can put together and try to win these next two."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 24, 2019