Spurs starters struggle early
There is an explanation to some early jitters in a Game 7 with your season on the line but what the Spurs' starters did in the first quarter set the tone for the entire first half.
Their starting lineup of Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl combined for two points in the first frame.
San Antonio only scored 13 points in the quarter as a whole, but two points from your five starters is unacceptable.
White and Forbes missed two shots apiece, DeRozan went 0-for-5, Poeltl missed his only shot attempt and Aldridge got one to go at a 1-for-4 clip. That's a combined 1-for-13 (7.7%) shooting from the field, being outscored by the Nuggets' starters 21-2.
It's hard to overcome a start like that and we saw it drag into the second quarter as well. Their two stars DeRozan and Aldridge were a combined 3-for-18 at the half for a total of 12 points.
If not for a productive first half effort from Rudy Gay off the bench (11 points, 4-9 FG) San Antonio could have been in an even deeper hole than a mere 13-point deficit at the half.
Nikola Jokic's triple-double
After dropping a career-high 43 points in Game 6, Nikola Jokic did not let up in Game 7, posting a 21-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, with zero turnovers, adding his name to some elite company.
Nikola Jokic posted 21p/15r/10a in Game 7 against the Spurs to join Wilt Chamberlain as the only centers in @NBA history to post multiple triple-doubles in the same #NBAPlayoffs run. #MileHighBasketball- StatMuse (@statmuse) April 28, 2019
📊 https://t.co/dTuzCFzHdd pic.twitter.com/thsVKwSNdK
While Jokic shot just 9-of-26 from the field, he was able to continually impact the game, whether it was dragging in offensive rebounds (5) or creating 21 points from his 10 assists, he proved to be the difference in Game 7, with no shortage of highlights:
Just a routine play for the best passing big man in the game!#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/SiG2cvDiSd- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 28, 2019
On the defensive end, he limited the effectiveness of LaMarcus Aldridge, holding the Spurs forward to just 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting on the night.
Murray steps up big
Jamal Murray had a quiet start to this game but he played his best basketball when it counted.
After scoring just seven points in the first half, Murray scored 16 in the second half including a number of clutch buckets down the stretch.
He had 10 points in the third quarter to keep the Nuggets' at a sizable lead but the Spurs refused to quit, cutting it to a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
Denver elected to space the floor down the stretch, going pick-and-roll with Murray and Nikola Jokic on every possession with their season on the line and it paid off.
Murray hit a floater with just under three minutes remaining to put his team up by six, but that wasn't the most clutch shot he hit in the game. With 40 seconds on the clock and his team up by two, Murray took a handoff from Jokic which caused Aldridge to switch on to him. Instead of going with a one-dribble pull-up, Murray went with an off-legged floater over the top of the Spurs' forward and got it to go, sealing the game for the Nuggets.
Jamal Murray with the CLUTCH RUNNER to propel the @nuggets in Game 7! #MileHighBasketball #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/2wDVvdKK8l- NBA (@NBA) April 28, 2019
He finished with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in the game, going 3-for-6 from the field in the fourth quarter.
In a low scoring game, both teams just couldn't find their groove from beyond the arc, with the Nuggets shooting 2-for-20 from deep and the Spurs not much better at 6-for-23.
The Nuggets' struggles from three helped keep the Spurs in the game, but they failed to capitalise with their own off night, making their comeback effort even harder.
During the regular season, the Spurs were 25th in the league in three-pointers made per game and when they needed a lift from the three-point line in Game 7, their best shooters failed to fire.
Bryn Forbes knocked down three of his four attempts but the rest of his teammates combined for just 3-of-19, with Derrick White (0-of-4), Patty Mills (1-of-5), Marco Belinelli (0-of-2) and Rudy Gay (2-of-7) unable to get it going.