Denver, CO – Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead a balanced Spurs attack as San Antonio pulled away in second half to defeat the Denver Nuggets 109-99 Tuesday night.

The Nuggets bounced back nicely from a embarrassing loss on the road to the Golden State Warriors on Monday but the effort still wasn’t enough to overcome the defending champions.

“The difference for us was 16 turnovers they got 15 points of off and the 9 missed free throws,” said head coach Brian Shaw. “You lose the game by ten points. A better effort than last night but still not good enough to win against a team of this caliber.”

Denver got out to an early 10-2 lead behind forwards Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried, only to see the Spurs battle back to tie the game at 20 heading into the second quarter. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team gaining a significant edge. At halftime, the Spurs led 51-48, with Jusuf Nurkic and Kenneth Faried the two players in double-figures for Denver.

The Nuggets finished with a 56-32 edge in points in the paint. Nurkic finished the night with 10 points and nine rebounds while sitting out most of the second half, while Faried led all scorers with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

“I think Kenneth was trying to get after it tonight. Juka played better but he can still player better than what he did tonight. J.J. (Hickson) and D.A. (Arthur) were just ok,” said Shaw. “We went down the stretch with small lineup because offensively we had to try and get some scores.”

The Nuggets kept the game close in the third, thanks in large part to the efforts of Arron Afflalo. Afflalo had 13 points in the third quarter alone and finished with 21 on the evening.

The Spurs pulled away for good in the final frame, extending their lead to 13 nine minutes into the quarter, and were able to coast home from there.

“Second half, they started making shots and getting offensive rebounds, kicking it out for threes. At the start of the fourth quarter, Kawhi hit a three, I think Danny (Green) hit a three, someone else hit one I think,” said point guard Ty Lawson, who finished with an uncharacteristically quiet four points and eight assists. “That was probably the back-breaker right there, when they got up 13.”

The loss is Denver’s fourth straight, and pushes their record down to 18-24 on the season. The Nuggets have a few days off before welcoming the Boston Celtics to town on Friday.

Zach Marburger is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @BurchBurger.

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