Nuggets seek rare road victory against Spurs
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San Antonio split the first two games in Denver, but the Spurs headed home for Game 3 on Thursday night feeling like they let a bigger opportunity slip away against the second-seeded Nuggets.
For that, they can thank enigmatic Denver point guard Jamal Murray, who has emerged as the most important player in this first-round Western Conference series -- a series that nearly became a San Antonio walk-over but now seems destined to go the distance.
Murray scored 24 points Tuesday and was the difference-maker as Denver roared back from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to even the series with a 114-105 win.
Murray struggled at the end of Game 1, missing a key shot and then committing a turnover in the final minute of a 101-96 San Antonio win on Saturday. He began Game 2 by missing all eight shots in the first half, but caught fire -- and then some -- in the fourth quarter as he went 8 of 9 from the floor and scored 21 points.
The Spurs managed just 23 points as a team in that pivotal period and headed home to regroup in the Alamo City, where they were 32-9 this season.
Murray's eight baskets in the fourth quarter Tuesday matched the number of shots he made in the previous seven quarters in the series combined. Denver coach Michael Malone said after the win that he saw Murray playing the correct way even when he was struggling.
"Jamal was trying to play the right way," Malone said. "I didn't foresee the fourth quarter he was going to have, but I knew in my heart he needed to get these minutes. I needed to show him I believed in him. That's powerful.
"Really proud of him. He was so frustrated at halftime. It was great to see him have some success."
The Spurs led Tuesday's game from the middle of the first quarter to the middle of the fourth, and often by double digits. DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 24, but it wasn't enough to overcome Murray's late heroics.
"We made a few mistakes, offensively, whether it was a turnover, didn't execute, didn't get a good look," DeRozan said. "They came down with a lot of momentum, (Jamal) Murray got extremely hot, made some big buckets down the stretch."
Only four teams in NBA history have recovered to win a best-of-7 series after falling behind 2-0 at home. Murray's sudden turnaround made sure Denver would not carry that assignment with it to Texas.
The task is still a tall one for the Nuggets, who have lost 13 straight games in San Antonio, a streak that dates back to March 2012.
"We got Game 1. We fought, tried to get Game 2, but we got homecourt shifting our way," DeRozan said. "Now, it's on us to go home and do what we need to do, understand if we take care of home, like we've been doing all year, we can come back here with an opportunity. We feel great where we're at. We understood it wasn't going to be a cake walk."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 17, 2019
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Published: 2015-05-28 13:51:00
Updated: 2016-07-13 10:41:59
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