The Nuggets made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Spurs in Game 7, moving on to face the Trail Blazers.
It was an ugly, bricky Game 7 between the Nuggets and Spurs. No one made mistakes with the ball, the two teams combined for just 12 turnovers. But both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line and the Spurs managed just 34 first-half points, putting them in a hole they were never able to climb out of.
The Spurs made a late push and were able to cut the Nuggets lead to four points with 4:12 left in the fourth. Each team scored six points over the final four minutes and that four-point lead ended up as the final margin. DeMar DeRozan was visibly frustrated as the final buzzer sounded and his performance over those final minutes will make for a long summer. After hitting the jumper at 4:12 to cut the lead down, he missed his final three shots from the field and went 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
The Nuggets now prepare to host the Trail Blazers for Game 1 of their second-round series, likely on Monday night.
San Antonio Spurs
Jamal Murray ends the series on a high note. Murray had an up-and-down series, winning Game 2 almost singlehandedly with his 21-point fourth quarter explosion. He also was a combined 17-of-47 and 3-of-16 on 3s in the Nuggets three losses, Games 1, 3 and 6. He missed both of his 3s in this Game 7 but made several huge shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter and finished with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting. The Nuggets need Murray to be an offensive game-changer if they’re going to keep advancing and having him finish well should have his confidence high when the Blazers arrive.
Aldridge and DeRozan couldn’t get anything done. The Spurs leaders worked hard, they competed, left it all on the floor. Unfortunately, in this game, “all” didn’t amount to much. Aldridge made some big defensive plays and came up with 3 blocks in the game. They hit the glass and swung the ball to open teammates, racking up 19 rebounds and 10 assists. DeRozan attacked the basket and made things happen to help them close the gap. But overall, they could only muster 35 points on a combined 13-of-37 from the field, along with 4 turnovers. They had opportunities, they just couldn’t capitalize against an aggressive Nuggets defense. Both players will be under contract for next season, assuming DeRozan picks up his player option. They are clearly bridge players, connecting the Kawhi era to what comes next, and it’s worth considering how much primacy it’s worth the Spurs investing in them next year. They can keep San Antonio competitive, but would they be better served to reduce their roles and giving more responsibility to Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl and Lonnie Walker?
Nikola Jokic is a gamer. We can put to rest any concerns about whether he is up for the big moments or whether his rather unique style of play would translate to the playoffs. He was gassed in the fourth quarter of this game, committing a sloppy foul and missing makeable shots in the paint. But he also put up 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, calmly exerting control on offense and guiding his teammates into the right shots at the right times. He is an elite player and he’s going to be an elite player in the postseason. I can’t wait to see what he does next.