Surging Nuggets aim to stay hot vs. slumping Spurs


The Denver Nuggets will look to continue their runaway success since the All-Star break when they host the sputtering San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

The game is the first of two in a three-day stretch between the teams.

The Nuggets have won six in a row and 15 of their last 18 games. Denver’s most recent victory was a 134-119 home blowout of the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, a game that marked the first half of a home back-to-back for the Nuggets.

Nikola Jokic paced Denver with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the win over the Pistons, despite not playing in the fourth quarter. Michael Porter Jr. added 25 points and Will Barton had 24 for the Nuggets, who recorded a season-high point total on Tuesday.

Denver was playing well even before acquiring forward Aaron Gordon from Orlando prior to the trade deadline. Gordon brings size (6-foot-8, 235 pounds) and defensive determination to the Nuggets.

Denver has won all five games that Gordon has played since the trade on March 25. He had just nine points versus the Pistons after scoring 24 against his former team on Sunday.

“The biggest thing is the defensive versatility and athleticism that Aaron brings,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “Even if he gets beat (on the perimeter), he has the size, strength and length to get back into the play and make it tough for them.”

The Spurs begin a five-game road trip with the two contests in Denver. San Antonio comes into Wednesday’s action on a three-game losing streak, a skid that includes a 125-101 loss at home to Cleveland on Monday.

The setback to Cleveland was in the final leg of a franchise-high, nine-game homestand for the Spurs, who managed to win only two of those games. Two of those losses came in overtime, to Atlanta and Indiana, respectively.

“We look like we are fried. We just look tired,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said after the loss to Cleveland. “Cup is less than half filled, it seems. The energy, the aggressiveness, whether it’s a little bit of the schedule, a little bit of the overtimes, a little bit of the different players playing every night because of the injuries — it’s adding up.”

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 20 points while Keldon Johnson, Derrick White and Rudy Gay added 13 points apiece. Johnson also had 10 rebounds. The Spurs trailed by just 10 points at halftime but ran out of steam, as has been the pattern during their recent swoon.

“It’s been exhausting the last few games,” DeRozan said. “How we lost (to Cleveland) — definitely frustrating, should be frustrating. We’ve got to carry that frustration over, take it with us on the road and use that frustration as fight to pull out these victories.”

The Spurs are 12-7 on the road this season, so perhaps the adversity of playing in an opponent’s arena will stoke their fire.

–Field Level Media

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