After a disappointing loss in Game 3, the No. 2 seed Nuggets bounced back to earn a 117-103 road win over the No. 7 Spurs in Game 4.
In addition to tying the series at two games apiece, Denver earns its first win at the AT&T Center since March 4, 2012; prior to tonight, the Nuggets had lost 14 consecutive games in San Antonio.
It was a team effort for Denver, who benefited from the contributions of a number of players. Nikola Jokic led the way with a game-high 29 points to go with 12 rebounds and eight assists while Jamal Murray added 24 points (on 8-for-14 shooting).
Torrey Craig finished with 18 points and eight rebounds while Monte Morris (11 points) and Will Barton (12 points) combined to score 23 points off the bench.
San Antonio was led by 24 points and nine rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished the game shooting 55.6% from the field. DeMar DeRozan added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists but was ejected in the fourth quarter.
With that in mind, here are takeaways from the game…
Torrey Craig shines in starting lineup
Nuggets coach Mike Malone made the adjustment putting Torrey Craig in the starting lineup and it paid off handsomely on both ends.
Craig recorded 18 points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block, knocking down 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc, giving the Nuggets a huge offensive boost on the perimeter.
While Craig's offensive production was much-needed, his impact on the defensive end was even bigger, using his physicality and extra effort to disrupt the Spurs' perimeter players, setting the tone for his teammates.
Torrey Craig protects the @nuggets paint!#MileHighBasketball 111#GoSpursGo 94- NBA (@NBA) April 20, 2019
4:00 to go on @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/UbYPSsOUaZ
Will Barton went to the bench in his place and looked much more comfortable against the Spurs' second unit, playing his best game of the series, scoring 12 points, knocking down all three of his three-point attempts on the night.
Barton had struggled to find his shot early in the series, entering Game 4 shooting 9-of-31 through the first three games.
Nikola Jokic played aggressively in Game 4 and it's no surprise it resulted in a win for his Nuggets.
The All-Star centre was too passive in Game 1 and his team didn't end up with the outcome he wanted. Since that moment, he's attacked more on the offensive end and the series is now tied up 2-2 because of it.
He earned a new playoff career-high in scoring going for 29 points on 10-for-22 shooting from the field, converting all eight of his free throw attempts.
Nikola Jokic led the was as the @nuggets took Game 4! :muscle:- NBA TV (@NBATV) April 21, 2019
:bar_chart:: 29 PTS | 12 REB | 8 AST#MileHighBasketball | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/Fyam0VQV71
Jokic just missed out on a triple-double, grabbing 12 rebounds to go with eight assists while also finishing with a team-best plus-18.
After attempting just nine shots in Game 1, Jokic has gotten his shots per game closer to his 15.1 field goal attempts average from this season.
Should he remain aggressive on the offensive end with the Nuggets running their offence through their once-MVP candidate this season, they'll be in good shape to try and take their first lead in this series.
The 3-point shooting edge
They might not be known for the volume with which they shoot (25.3 attempts per game), but the Spurs shot a league-best 39.2% from beyond the arc in the regular season. The Nuggets, on the other hand, shot over 31 triples per game while connecting at a 35.1% clip.
These first four games have been an interesting study on how shooting can impact a series, to say the least.
After a poor shooting output in Game 1 (6-for-28), Denver has shot 40-for-84 (47.6%) in Games 2 through 4, including its 15-for-31 shooting in the Game 4 win. San Antonio, on the other hand, managed to shoot just 29.4% (5-for-17) from deep in Game 4.
The Nuggets outscored the Spurs 45-15 from deep, and Denver's Torrey Craig knocked down as many threes as San Antonio did as a team. That usually isn't a good sign.
Interestingly enough, in each of the Spurs two wins this series, they have knocked down exactly seven triples; in their two losses, they have hit just five shots from 3-point range. San Antonio doesn't rely on its shooting by any means, but the rarity with which it shoots from distance adds to the value of the possessions that end with threes.
As the series shifts back to Denver, the Nuggets will look to continue their hot shooting streak