Good, bad, ugly: Jokic’s career night ruined as Spurs force Game 7

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in game six of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center.
Apr 25, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in game six of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets went into Game 6 with a 3-2 lead after returning home and putting a shellacking on the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday evening. In that 108-90 win, it was Denver’s defense that showed up as well as an all-around concerted offensive effort that resulted in seven different players scoring in double-digits to ensure the victory.

Then, after their great Game 5 victory, Denver headed to San Antonio on Thursday evening — a place that they have historically struggled — with a chance to clinch and move on to the second round in the Western Conference playoffs.

Unfortunately for Denver, the Spurs reciprocated the beating Denver game them and ruined a career night by Nikola Jokic. San Antonio made almost every single shot that they took as they downed the Nuggets 120-103 and forced a Game 7.

With all of that being said, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Jokic sets new career-high

This could go as a positive and a negative — Jokic undoubtedly had his best game of his career, but it was ruined as the Nuggets could not defend or supply Jokic with any additional help to get the win.

When he was in the game, Denver found a way to hang around and even took a lead at one point, but as soon as Jokic sat, the Spurs went on runs that ended up being the difference in the game.

Jokic was aggressive from the very start and took what the defense gave him in his first closeout game. He finished with a career-high 43 points which was not only his personal best, but also the most a Nuggets player has scored in the playoffs in franchise history.  The big man was cooking.

Jokic went 19-30 from the field and was also only an assist shy of his second playoff triple-double being that he finished with nine assists and 12 rebounds. Additionally, Jokic was only the fourth player to ever post 42 or more points, 12 or more rebounds, and nine or more assists in a single playoff game joining the likes of Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Charles Barkley.

If other Nuggets players can show up and help him in Game 7, Denver has a good chance of advancing, but if they show up in the same way that they did in Game 6, Jokic’s hard work again could all be for nothing.

Bad – First quarter struggles

The Nuggets struggled yet again in the first quarter and started out in another hole. The Nuggets have now lost five of the six first quarters in the series.

Denver trailed 34-24 after the first quarter as the offense came out stagnant which set the tone for the rest of the game.

There were clear jitters on the Nuggets end as they missed open shots, did not run shooters off of the three-point line or push them out of their preferred spots, and had a difficult time keeping the Spurs out of the paint.

One of the biggest issues that the Nuggets had was shooting the ball as they went an abysmal 0-7 from the three-point line in the first quarter.

On the flip side, the Spurs were aggressive to begin the game and played as their entire season was on the line because, well, it was. San Antonio shot 66% from the field in the first frame and were led by LaMarcus Aldridge who had a sensational game.

Aldridge finished with 13 points in the opening quarter alone to lead all scorers. He hit mid-range shots and made sure to get himself going at the rim which opened the floor for him all night.

To help him in the Spurs solid opening quarter, Bryn Forbes had seven points and DeMar DeRozan had five assists to balance out the Spurs offense.

Denver bounced back in the second quarter as they found their rhythm on the offense and won the frame 36-30, but they still went into halftime with a four-point deficit after a rough first quarter.

Ugly – Game 7 on the horizon

The Spurs have never gone back-to-back years without a trip to the second round of the playoffs during the Popovich era and the Nuggets sit just one win away from making that a reality.

Denver had the opportunity to end this series on the road and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but did not show up. Now, everything is setting up for a winner-take-all Game 7.

The good thing is the Nuggets get to head back home to the Pepsi Center where they put together the best home record in all of the NBA. They will take on the Spurs on Saturday with the chance to prove to the rest of the world that they are finally ready to be taken seriously.

San Antonio is almost assuredly going to come out amped and ready to play. They have fought back in this series and given themselves a chance to return back to the second round. Popovich lives for these types of games and, with two perennial All-Stars in Aldridge and DeRozan, it is going to be another test in resiliency for the Nuggets.

San Antonio shows up for these type of elimination games as well as any team so the Nuggets will have to leave it all on the court if they hope to avoid a major upset.

Game 7 could not come soon enough.

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