By Robert Windrem, for CNN • Updated 31st August 2021
The Denver Nuggets capped a much-needed winning road trip Thursday, beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-96 behind 29 points and 13 rebounds from Croatian center Nikola Jokic.
The victory did not come easily, however, as the Nuggets committed 22 turnovers and shot just 41.3% from the field. Still, it was a much-needed win after Denver suffered two humiliating defeats in the previous three games, first against Memphis and then against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We didn’t play our best game today, but we won,” Jokic said after the win, when asked why the team rebounded so well from those defeats. “I think we’ve played like this all season. We beat good teams. Tonight we won. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Jokic was the best player on the court with 11 points and 14 rebounds in the first half. The 24-year-old center from Serbia was coming off a poor offensive performance against the Lakers, but bounced back on Thursday with a superb offensive game and 21 points at halftime.
“He’s doing amazing, man,” Nuggets guard Will Barton said of Jokic. “On the road trip we had some tough losses. He helped us get over the hump tonight.”
San Antonio lost a tough game at home for the second time in less than a week. The Spurs were taking on the team with the best record in the NBA. Despite the setback, this is still one of the better defensive teams in the league, and the Spurs really don’t miss big man LaMarcus Aldridge or veteran DeMar DeRozan.
JaMychal Green scored 18 points for the Spurs, but the San Antonio crowd was also irked by San Antonio’s poor free throw shooting, as they shot just 17-of-33 from the line. Manu Ginobili, the Spurs’ oldest player, did not record a point.
Shabazz Napier finished with 23 points to lead Denver in scoring. Napier came off the bench to play 21 minutes, and has now scored in double figures in nine of the 10 games he has played this season.
“I like his defense a lot, I like his poise, how calm he is. So that’s a good thing,” said Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. “For a younger guy he’s showing everybody out there that he wants to be a part of this, that he wants to be the guy. I think it’s special.”
This was the first time the Spurs and Nuggets played each other this season, and the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The last time they met was during the 2014-15 season, and Denver crushed San Antonio on the road.
There was no such split-screen showing in Denver on Thursday as the Nuggets took down a team who the Nuggets struggled to beat last season. Denver is now 3-0 against San Antonio this season and have won six straight meetings in the series.