San Antonio Spurs 126, Denver Nuggets 100: A night when everything, even a Duncan three, fell right.
AT&T CENTER — Though Spurs center Tim Duncan has hit a memorable 3-pointer or two, the long distance shot is hardly part of his established repertoire.
But on a night when everything else seemingly dropped in a 126-100 win over the Denver Nuggets, perching himself in the corner in the closing seconds of the first half, Duncan lined up and nailed his 3-point attempt to give the San Antonio Spurs a 60-40 halftime lead.
“When the shots are falling,” shooting guard Danny Green said, “the game is easier.”
Hitting 16-of-27 from behind the arc is enough to make an easy go of any opponent, let alone one that has struggled as the Nuggets have this early season. All but three Spurs (Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, and Tiago Splitter) connected from deep as the Spurs assisted on 33 of their 47 made baskets.
DeJuan Blair (19 points, eight rebounds, and three assists) and Stephen Jackson (nine points, nine rebounds, and three assists) got tabbed for the starting lineup, providing the energy the team lacked down the stretch in its previous showdown with the New York Knicks.
Blair set the tone, dropping a beautiful pass on a Danny Green backdoor cut for a dunk. The on-again-off-again starter moved his feet on defense, jumped passing lanes (two steals), and put the Nuggets frontline in early foul trouble (six free throw attempts in the first quarter).
“They did a great job of finding the open man and hitting somebody with a little bit better shot,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game.
When the shots are falling and the ball is moving the game becomes as simple as shots falling through the net, as Popovich visually pantomimed for a reporter asking about the difference in Manu Ginobili’s game.
“There’s this orange thing,” Popovich said as he brought his hands together in the shape of a rim, “and when the ball goes in there that’s what we’re looking for.”
Struggling through back spasm for much of this early season, Ginobili broke through for 20 points on 7-10 shooting and five 3-pointers—his shot finally displaying its usual lift and arch.
Before the game Popovich said Ginobili’s back was finally moving in the right direction, something that was notably visible as Manu worked his way through a variety of step back jumpers and curls during his pregame shoot around.
“I kind of knew from the warm-up that I was going to have a better game,” Ginobili said. “I had a different mental approach and I was feeling pretty good.
“I had a couple tough weeks where (the back) was bothering me, in my head too, now I think I’m getting over it.”
A Ginobili resurgence couldn’t come at a better time with a seemingly much improves Los Angeles Clippers coming to San Antonio on Monday night.
When these two teams last met the Spurs were at the opposite end of the NBA’s up-and-down spectrum. On a night when everything fell right, including a Duncan 3-pointer, the Spurs can only hope Ginobili’s momentum carries forward.