San Antonio Spurs 110, Denver Nuggets 97: A second quarter run is the difference
AT&T CENTER — The Spurs did their darnedest in the first quarter of their 110-97 win over the Denver Nuggets to lose the game. San Antonio committed eight turnovers and made some of the sloppiest defensive rotations they’ve had all season. The Spurs were fortunate to be down just four points after one quarter.
But a second quarter run that was kick-started by defensive energy from Tiago Splitter (yes, Tiago Splitter) and offensive aggressiveness via Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker turned the tides. The Spurs went on a 33-7 run in the second that turned a 12-point deficit into a 14-point lead.
“That was probably the best part of the game,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “Going down the way we did and then keeping our composure and digging ourselves back into the game.
“That was a good thing for us.”
Splitter started the run off with a reverse layup and then drew a charge on Al Harrington on the defensive end. Ginobili then scored at the rim after driving on a pick-and-roll with Splitter.
San Antonio ended up outscoring the Nuggets 37-20 in the second quarter, holding the Nuggets to 33% shooting and forcing four turnovers.
It was amazing to see how quickly energy on the defensive end and getting a few stops fueled the offense. All of a sudden the Spurs’ ball movement was crisper, guys were getting open shots, and driving and passing lanes magically appeared. In the first quarter, San Antonio’s offense seemed to settle for the first open look that came along instead of moving the ball and getting better shots.
“We made stops,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said after the game. “When you make stops, it creates opportunities for easy baskets.”
The Spurs extended a 12-point halftime lead to a 82-67 margin after three quarters, but missed a golden opportunity to rest their starters during the fourth quarter. San Antonio started the fourth with a lineup of George Hill, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Antonio McDyess, but the Spurs weren’t able to extend their lead.
The Spurs 15-point advantage dropped to 12 when the time came for Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson to re-enter the game as a part of the normal rotation. With the game still in the balance, Coach Pop was forced to continue with the rotation instead of let Duncan sit out yet another fourth quarter this season.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Tony Parker in the corner and another 3-pointer from George Hill in the opposite corner kept a 15-point lead for the Spurs with about two-and-a-half minutes left and Pop felt comfortable emptying the bench.
Halfway through the season the Spurs, at 35-6, are on pace for the best record in franchise history and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Assuming they can stay healthy San Antonio is in prime position to make yet another run in the Western Conference Playoffs.