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Nuggets 110-105 Spurs (Apr 2, 2024) Game Recap

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Nuggets 110-105 Spurs (Apr 2, 2024) Game Recap


DENVER — — Chalk this one up to Nikola Jokic after Victor Wembanyama came up just short of outdueling the player who is hoping to soon pick up his third MVP award.

Jokic scored 42 points and outdueled the Rookie of the Year favorite in Denver’s 110-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night to retake sole possession of first place in the West.

Jokic also grabbed 16 rebounds and had six assists. Wembanyama had 23 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and nine blocks. Three of Jokic’s baskets came on rare dunks, something he said he had to do facing the sensational rookie.

“He had like 600 blocks tonight, but we got the win,” Jokic said after Denver leap-frogged Oklahoma City atop the Western Conference playoff race.

The Nuggets (53-23) took a half-game lead over Oklahoma City, which lost 109-105 at Philadelphia earlier Tuesday night. The Minnesota Timberwolves (52-23) kept pace with Oklahoma City when they beat Houston 113-106.

Jokic’s hook shot broke a 103-103 tie but Wembanyama’s layup at the other end knotted it up again with a minute remaining.

Michael Porter Jr., who had 15 points and a career-best 16 rebounds, made a 3 with 28 seconds left to put Denver up 108-105 and Wembanyama missed a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left but the Spurs burned 10 seconds before Wembanyama fouled Jokic, who sank both free throws with 8 seconds remaining.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he couldn’t be happier with how Wembanyama led his team to a near upset of the defending NBA champions despite missing several injured starters.

“That’s one of the most competitive games I have been part of for many years,” Popovich said. “For 48 minutes, under difficult circumstances, these guys just played … the effort for 48 was really impressive, the best I’ve seen all year. And like I said (for) several years, losing sucks, but to see how far they have come this season is really a joy.”

Wembanyama was exhausted after trying to keep up with Jokic and logging 34 tough minutes in Denver’s thin air.

“It’s very demanding” going up against Jokic, Wembanyama said, adding that the altitude was “just one difficulty among others. We have to adapt to this just like we have to adapt to plenty of other factors.”

Such as Jokic making 18 shots, twice as many as Wembanyama did.

Even with the Spurs missing Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson, all suffering from foot injuries, San Antonio was no pushover for the Nuggets, who were without point guard Jamal Murray (knee) for a sixth straight game.

The Spurs got double-digit scoring from seven players, including Malaki Branham, who scored 24.

The Nuggets had a tough time shaking off the scrappy Spurs, taking a one-point lead into both halftime and the fourth quarter before Denver’s reserves used an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter while Jokic was grabbing his usual breather on the bench.

Jokic returned with Denver ahead 99-92 but back-to-back 3s by Tre Jones, who had his third career triple-double (10 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists), and Sandro Mamukelashvili tightened it up again, setting up a thrilling finish with Jokic and Wembanyama going at it until the very end.

Popovich, for one, is looking forward to more Wemby vs. Joker matchups to come, beginning with a rematch in San Antonio on April 12.

“Well, sure. Victor gained a lot of respect tonight because Nikola is the best,” Popovich said. “For Victor to want to guard him and to learn, it was a real testament to how good he wants to be. To go up against Nikola, like I said, shows a lot. And he is learning by the minute.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: At New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Nuggets: At Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA



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