The city of Denver had a very cold day on December 28th, but within the confines of the Pepsi Center, things heated up between the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

While the Nuggets owned the first half, the Spurs decimated Denver in the third quarter which made the last 12 minutes of the game extremely intersting. The fourth and final frame of the game was tightly contested for all 12 minutes, but the Nuggets were able to hold on to grab their 22nd win of the year by a score of 102-99.

The first quarter began in a typical fashion. Gregg Popovich called two timeouts out of anger within the first five minutes of the game for the Spurs and Nikola Jokic had complete control of the offense for the Nuggets. As a cherry on top, Denver’s once dominant defense returned as well. After back-to-back lackluster performances on the defensive end of the floor, the Nuggets ratcheted up and locked in on that end of the floor.

Then, Jokic was removed with five minutes remaining in the first quarter and the Spurs responded with a 5-1 run over the next couple of minutes to get themselves back into the game. Malone then answered that run by re-inserting Jokic with about three minutes left and the Nuggets proceeded to go on their own 13-7 run to end the first frame of the game. By the time the first quarter buzzer sounded, the Nuggets were up 31-23 on the Spurs and Jokic was back to looking like an MVP-caliber player. He finished with nine points, three rebounds, and three assists in his first nine minutes of action.

The Nuggets kept their foot firmly planted on the accelerator as the second period began thanks to a 13-8 run to begin the second quarter and they began looking for the knockout punch. Denver desperately wanted to put their second matchup with the Spurs in three days to bed early.

Denver’s knockout punch manifested itself in made 3-pointers as the Nuggets continued to rain down mortar fire from deep. By the time the second quarter had ended, Denver had already asked up nine made 3-pointers in 18 attempts, but as the Nuggets have over the past few games, they failed to close out the end of the quarter on a high note. The Spurs closed the half on a 6-2 run as Denver carried a 61-47 lead into halftime after leading by as many as 18 points. Jamal Murray was a human inferno in the first half as he accumuatled 21 points on 16 shots.

The beginning of the third quarter was a polar opposite of the first half. The Nuggets, who had an opportunity to put away the Spurs early, came out without much energy and lacking the same defensive determination they had in the first half. They allowed the Spurs to close within one point after San Antonio trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half thanks to an 20-8 run. The Nuggets stopped playing through Jokic as much for unknown reasons and Murray went cold from the field. Then the turnovers began to pile up as well. Nothing was going right for the Nuggets to begin the third period of action.

Denver was outscored 28-17 in the third quarter, but still managed to escape with their lead intact. Denver carried a 78-75 lead into the fourth and final quarter.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair for the entire 12 minute stretch. Murray would hit a big jumper and DeMar DeRozan would answer with a dunk on the other end. Jokic would create a great look for a teammate and the Spurs would then convert a transition opportunity into points.

Then, as they have all year, injuries struck the Nuggets. First, Malik Beasley went down with what appeared to be a left ankle injury before Murray also went down with a right ankle injury. Bealey was unable to return, but Murray refused to exit the game. He stayed in, even though he was clearly in pain, and produced in a big way for the Nuggets.

For the Nuggets last trick, they went back to their best player for the final two minutes to carry them home. Jokic took control of the game on both ends of the floor, but with 48 seconds left he picked up his sixth foul and had to watch the rest of the game from the bench. Then Torrey Craig picked up his sixth foul and had to watch from the bench.

The Nuggets were down nine players, had just a one-point lead, and desperately needed a win. Of course, as he has all year, it was Monte Morris who stepped up and drew a huge foul with seven seconds left. After he buried both free throws, the Nuggets managed to come away with an incredible win over the Spurs by a score of 102-99.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Nikola Jokic has racked up 21 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Jamal Murray had a monster first half and finished with 31 points on 13-of-27 shooting. Off of the bench, it was Malik Beasley who lit up the Spurs for 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting before exiting the game with an ankle injury he sustained at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Next, the Nuggets will get on a place and head straight Arizona to take on the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night; just about 24 hours after tipping off against the Spurs. Denver will be looking to start another winning streak against the worst team in the Western Conference. That game will tip off at 7pm MST.