The Nuggets needed everything they could get from Nikola Jokic to take Game 4 from the Spurs and even their series at 2-2.
The Nuggets had mostly disappointed through the first seven quarters of their first-round series with the Spurs, needing a 21-point fourth quarter from Jamal Murray to even things in Game 2. They followed that momentum-shifting win by giving it right back with a disappointing loss in Game 3. Luckily, they still have Nikola Jokic who looked every bit an MVP candidate in leading the Nuggets to a huge Game 4 win and a series reset.
As good as Denver has to feel about nabbing a road win, they still haven’t really solved any of their issues and they’ll need to beat the Spurs two more times to make any of this matter.
San Antonio Spurs
Nikola Jokic finally did it all. Jokic’s numbers have been spectacular throughout the series but this was the first game where it really felt like he exerted his will and took control. Jokic finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists, without turning the ball over once. He was 10-of-22 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Hitting less than 50 percent of his shots is not ideal but 22 shot attempts was a playoff-high and a mark he surpassed just six times during the regular season. His passing is so useful that it’s easy to lose track of how effective he can be as a scoring fulcrum as well. Of course, the catch-22 of games like this is they highlight all the times where his scoring takes a backseat to everyone else’s and intensifies criticism when it happens in a loss. For one night, at least, that’s not a bad problem to have.
The Spurs finally hit some bumps. The Spurs haven’t really overwhelmed Denver at any point in this series but their ability to play largely mistake-free basketball has given them an edge. Tonight they turned the ball over just 9 times but 7 came from their primary ball-handlers (DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White and Bryn Forbes) and they hit just 5-of-17 3-pointers. Denver, on the other hand, caught some breaks, things like just 7 turnovers total and Torrey Craig hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers.
What can the Nuggets count on moving forward? All season, it seemed like the Nuggets were winning games with a fairly stable foundation — they knew what they were getting offensively and defensively from each player and their bench was solid. Jamal Murray’s inconsistency has been part of his profile but he’s been way more up-and-down than normal in this series. Will Barton has struggled in the playoffs, was moved out of the starting lineup, and responded by hitting 3-of-3 on 3-pointers in 15 minutes. Everything feels like it’s up in the air now, which is not a good place to be when you have to win two of your next three games to extend your season.