The Spurs survived a huge Game 6 from Nikola Jokic to beat the Nuggets again and force a Game 7.
Facing elimination, the Spurs once again proved they could solve the Nuggets. Their 17-point win was a reminder of just how evenly this series has been played (on a macro scale) and that anything could happen in Game 7.
San Antonio was able to force one more game thanks to huge performances from their DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, the most experienced players on their roster. They survived a huge night from Nikola Jokic and helped hold down his supporting cast to give themselves one more chance to advance.
San Antonio Spurs
Nikola Jokic keeps getting better. As the stakes have gotten higher, the Nuggets’ best player has continued to raise his game. The Nuggets couldn’t get over the hump in Game 6 but Jokic played as well as he has in any of playoff game so far, totaling 43 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and a block in 38 minutes. All the criticisms of Jokic after Game 1 were pointed at his nine shot attempts and a lack of aggression. With 30 shot attempts and a hand in well over half the Nuggets’ points in this game, between his shots and assists, there’s not much more Jokic could do on the aggression front. If the Nuggets end up losing this series, it certainly won’t be because their best player wasn’t up to the challenge.
The Spurs veterans came through. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have been, solid but relatively unspectacular for San Antonio, in a series that is crying out for an individual talent to take control. In Game 6, they were at their best, in a moment when the Spurs needed them most. DeRozan and Aldridge combined for 51 points on 22-of-34 from the field, with 17 rebounds and 12 assists. After Jokic, they should be the next two best players in this series and, for one night at least, they actually slotted into that hierarchy and helped the Spurs get a win.
The Spurs won the battle of the bench. Rudy Gay did most of the heavy lifting, chipping in 19 points on 11 shots and 3-of-3 from behind the 3-point line, but the Nuggets second-unit helped by laying a giant egg. Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Will Barton and Mason Plumlee combined for 13 points on 5-of-21 from the field and 0-of-6 on 3-pointers. Depth has been one of the Nuggets biggest strengths this season but they haven’t shown up consistently against the Spurs and the starters haven’t been good enough to compensate. Which bench will show up better in Game 7?