The Denver Nuggets went into Thursday’s game on a high as they pulled off an improbable come from behind victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 thanks to an absurd fourth quarter from Jamal Murray. Denver had an up and down performance in Game 2, but were able to pull off the 114-105 victory and looked to duplicate that success on Thursday in a place that they have not won in since 2012.
The Spurs headed back home to the AT&T Center, a place that they have been incredible at all year long, for Game 3 in an attempt to steal back that momentum and go ahead in the series 2-1.
The streak now continues for Denver as they are now on a 14-game losing skid in San Antonio. The Spurs ultimately ended up taking a 2-1 lead to further their home-court advantage winning 118-108 behind an offensive explosion from Colorado-born point guard Derrick White, who has been winning the point guard battle all series. With that we give you the good, the bad and the ugly.
Good – Second unit provides spark
Despite the Spurs now being up 2-1 in the series, there was a positive in the game.
After another lackluster start from Denver in the first quarter, the Nuggets needed some kind of spark to get back in the game.
Like plenty times this year, the second unit provided that spark in the second quarter.
Denver trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter, but turned their deficit into a seven-point lead after they reeled of a 16-0 run to begin the second quarter. The group that bounced back in a big way was the second unit with Gary Harris.
Denver won the battle of the bench and it was not even close. The Nuggets got 50 points from their bench as San Antonio only had 19 from their second unit.
Malik Beasley led the unit as he finished with 20 points on the night as he went 5-6 from beyond the arc. He also added nine rebounds as well and has made his case for \ Malone to seriously consider a lineup change in a massively important Game 4.
Monte Morris finished with 10 points and seven assists while only recording one turnover as well and Torrey Craig was highly productive as well as he scored 12 points and had six rebounds in only 12 minutes to lead all of Denver’s players in plus-minus.
Malone has been a coach that has shown loyalty for his players and stuck by them through difficult times, but with the season on the line maybe it is time to shake things up.
Bad – Will Barton and Murray
Had it not been for an insane fourth quarter from Murray in Game 2, one of the biggest storylines of the Nuggets playoffs would have been how White has won the guard battle and has completely outplayed Murray.
Now, after a dominating performance from White from start to finish including him putting on a defensive clinic and limiting Murray to only six points on 2-6 shooting, the topic has picked right back up.
White’s defense on Murray has been sensational and the third-year guard has seemed to have no answers on how to slow him down on the other end as well.
Outside of one single quarter, it has been White who has been the aggressor. He has been a downhill runner that aggressively attacks the rim. He finished with 36 points and also recorded three steals to win the battle in Game 3.
Another starter that has struggled mightily is Will Barton.
Barton was the topic of conversation heading into Game 3. Many fans were calling for him to be benched following a putrid 1-10 shooting performance in Game 2 that concluded with the Pepsi Center fans booing him.
Malone defended his starting small forward after the game and asked that the home crowd be more supportive, but after a second straight bad shooting performance in the playoffs there just might have to be changes made to the starting lineup; especially with the way that Craig and Beasley have stepped up.
Bringing Barton off of the bench gives Denver a different look defensively and inserting either Craig or Beasley into the starting lineup will help with limiting White, Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan while also allowing Barton the opportunity to go against a defender such as Marco Belinelli. Overall, it could help both sides.
The only way that Murray and Barton can salvage their play in the playoffs and get Denver back into it is by getting back to the basics and doing the things that they had done all season long.
Murray has to take care of the ball and play better defensively. On offense, he has to go back to that explosive fourth quarter and see that he was aggressive and taking shots. For Barton it is about letting the offense come to him and finding his rhythm. He seems to be so sped up and anxious to make a shot that he is forcing many things and now, with shots not falling, his confidence looks shot.
Ugly – Derrick White goes nuclear
Derrick White had himself a night and has announced his arrival to the national stage in a big way over the past three games, but particularly in Game 3.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 19, 2019
White finished with a career-high 36 points in Game 3, including a 26 points in a first half explosion to lead the Spurs to a 10-point victory to take the lead in the series.
He was surgical on offense as he made it a point to get to the basket and finish or drop it off to an open man which is how he ended up with five assists.
While his offense was the area to harp about, his work on the defensive end was what made the difference in the game.
White played incredible on-ball defense on Murray, who was coming off of one of his best quarters of his career. He limited Murray to only six points and had two steals and a block while also deflecting a couple of balls to start the break.
White has won the guard battle to this point and limiting his effectiveness is now a big part of the game plan for the Nuggets if they plan on fighting back in this series and winning.
The second-year guard was remarkable in the Spurs win and MVP of the game.