Jamal Murray’s 23 points led six Nuggets in double figures and Denver routed the San Antonio Spurs 108-90 Tuesday night to move within one win of their first playoff series triumph in a decade.
Up 3 games to 2, the Nuggets can wrap up the series Thursday night in San Antonio, where they won last weekend for the first time since 2012, regaining the home-court advantage.
The Nuggets, who posted the best home record in the NBA and ended a six-year playoff drought by earning a surprising second seed in the Western Conference playoffs, finally looked like the team that rolled through the regular season led by All-Star Nikola Jokic and backed up by the best bench in the league.
Jokic had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and Denver led by as many 30 points at 99-69, after which their starters took a seat.
Paul Millsap chipped in 14 points as the Nuggets’ most experienced player in the playoffs bounced back from a 4-point performance in Game 4 that ended his streak of 16 consecutive playoff games with double digit scoring.
DeMar DeRozen and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 17 for San Antonio, but Denver dominated this one almost from the tip.
The Nuggets fell behind 7-2 but thanks to a 14-2 spurt led 26-19 after one quarter.
Denver had been outscored in the first quarter in all four games and by a total of 31 points, which didn’t sit well with their coach.
“It’s something we talked about going into the series. During the regular season matchups, the team that had won the first quarter had gone on to win that game,” Michael Malone said before tip-off. “Obviously, we’ve been able to win two games even though we did not win the first quarter. I think tonight, coming off of that game in San Antonio, they’re going to come out very, very aggressive. They even stated that after the game, especially DeMar DeRozan.
“I think it’s important for us to win the first quarter, but not only to match the intensity and their aggressiveness, to exceed it. We have to come out with a hit-first mentality once again and hopefully that allows us to win that first quarter.”
The Nuggets used a 13-3 run in the second half to take an 11-point lead into the locker room at 53-42, and they raced out to a 65-44 lead less than six minutes into the second half on the strength of a 12-2 spurt coming out of the halftime break.
Their lead ballooned to 30 points on Malik Beasley’s bucket that made it 99-69.
San Antonio: The Spurs struggled on the road during the regular season, going just 16-25. They’re now 1-2 away from home in this series. If they win Thursday night, they’ll return to the Pepsi Center for Game 7 on Saturday night.
Denver: Broncos star linebacker Von Miller missed the pregame free throw before taking in the game with kicker Brandon McManus. … Also in attendance were several members of the Colorado Avalanche, including Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson. The Avs have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Should the Nuggets also advance, it would mark the first time since the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995 and became the Avalanche that both of the city’s NBA and NHL franchises advanced to the second round in the same season.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich feigned ignorance on a bunch of topics in his pregame press conference.
Asked how he expects these “pressers” to go, Popovich responded: “What’s a presser?”
Told that Malone compared him to the late chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, Popovich said: “Who’s Bobby Fischer?”
Popovich ended the media scrum with a parting shot: “I really enjoyed this presser.”
Game 6 is Thursday night in San Antonio.