Good, great, awesome: Nuggets respond in major way in San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills (8) shoots the ball under pressure from Denver Nuggets small forward Torrey Craig (3) in game four of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center.
Apr 20, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills (8) shoots the ball under pressure from Denver Nuggets small forward Torrey Craig (3) in game four 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 their afternoon game on Saturday in desperate need of a win. The San Antonio Spurs won Game 3 by a score of 118-108 to go up 2-1 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and the Nuggets’ proverbial back was against the wall.

Game 4 was essentially a must-win game for Denver. The Nuggets showed up ready to play and it culminated into a 117-103 victory in San Antonio to even out the series at 2-2 on the road behind a remarkable game by Nikola Jokic, who recorded 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

With that I give you the good, great and awesome.

Good – Enough for everyone

You know what they say – the 14th time is the charm.

Okay, that is not how the saying goes, but it was about time the Nuggets won in San Antonio after losing 13-straight game at the AT&T Center and it took a complete team performance that got it done.

Despite Denver getting off to a rough start and putting themselves in a 12-point hole to start the second quarter, the Nuggets responded with their best game of the series and everyone got involved.

Denver regained home-court advantage in the series behind Jokic’s big game, but he also received additional help by the other starters as well as the bench.

Murray bounced back in a big way. There was a sense of urgency in his game as he finished with 24 points and six assists to help regain some edge in the series.

Torrey Craig was phenomenal in his first career playoff start as he hit a career-high five 3-pointers in the game and finished with 18 points while impacting the game on both ends of the floor. He also had eight rebounds, two steals and a block to add to a great night.

Morris and Barton also fared well off of the bench as the two combined for 23 points, four assists and nine rebounds.

As long as Denver is getting this type of production from most of their team, they are going to be difficult to beat. They now head back to the Pepsi Center with home-court advantage back on their side and will look to duplicate a successful game by getting everyone involved.

Great – Up and down first half

“I am tired of playing from behind, tired of playing catch-up against this team,” Malone said prior to a very important game 4. ”We have to do a better job of playing defense which will ignite our break.”

The Nuggets have not gotten out to a good start yet as they have been outscored in every single first quarter this series and Saturday’s game was no different.

Malone made a change to the starting lineup and implemented Craig in for the struggling Barton as an attempt to have a better start, but to also put some defense into the game.

That plan backfired initially before being possibly the best decision of the playoffs for Denver. The Nuggets went into the second quarter down by 12 points and were able only able to muster 22 points on 36% shooting from the field. Additionally, Denver’s defense did not show up early and the Spurs capitalized off of those mistakes as they began the second quarter with a sizable lead.

The Nuggets did not execute on offense early on, allowed shooters to get open and knock down shots, and once again started out with a deficit and had to fight back.

Denver responded back with a huge second quarter that essentially won the game.

Denver held the Spurs to 4-of-21 shooting in the second quarter and outscored them 32-20 to go into the half with the game tied up.

Jokic led the way and the bench unit also stepped up to the plate to help Denver rally. From there, the Nuggets did not look back as the defense stepped up and the adjustments by Malone proved to be too much for the Spurs to counter. Now, Denver will head into a very important Game 5 with new life and momentum back on their side.

Awesome – Responding the right way

The theme of Saturday’s game was bouncing back.

With the series looking as if it were taking a turn for the worse and the Nuggets again being counted out, they respond with a surprising victory and overcame adversity.

Denver went down early in the game and looked as if they were on the verge of losing before bouncing back and putting together one of the most complete halves of the season.

Two players that received an immense amount of criticism heading into the game was Barton and Murray.

Many were saying that Murray was outmatched and intimidated by White with little to no answers in terms of slowing him down defensively. It was also stated that White’s defense had Murray bottled up as he was coming off of a disappointing six-point performance in Game 3. Murray responded by scoring 24 points and hitting three 3-pointers in the game while not being rattled in the slightest.

Barton was benched for Craig after two consecutive bad performances. What the move did was light a fire under Barton as he responded by coming off of the bench and making big plays.

Despite only playing 15 minutes on the night, but he led the second unit as he scored 12 points, including going 3-of-3 from beyond the three-point arc.

Barton has taken tons of the criticism all season long and has done so in stride while responding every single time.

With resilient leaders such as Barton in the Nuggets locker room and a floor general in Murray proving that they can bounce back with the entire season on the line, it speaks volumes to the type of team that the Nuggets have. Denver had their backs against the ropes and fought back setting up for a very interesting game 5 with the series now tied at two wins apiece.

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