Nuggets-Spurs: Three keys to Game 6 | VailDaily.com

Nuggets-Spurs: Three keys to Game 6

MIKE SINGER | The Denver Post
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) fights for control of a rebound with San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) and San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15), r m

Win the first. For the first time all series, Denver won the first quarter in Game 5 and wasn’t playing uphill the rest of the game. Instead of Nikola Jokic setting the early tone, it was Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap connecting on five first-quarter 3-pointers and putting the Spurs on their heels. The combination of their early scoring, coupled with imposing defense from Harris and Torrey Craig, sent a convincing message about the Nuggets’ intentions. After the first quarter, the Nuggets never trailed again.

“We wanted to take the fight to them,” said Harris. “We felt like they were trying to be physical with us and out-tough us, and that’s one thing we can control.”

Jokic and Murray. It sounds simple enough, but when those two are in lockstep, the Nuggets are nearly impossible to beat. Jokic has been the steady heartbeat of the Nuggets all season, and to the surprise of no one in the organization, the playoffs haven’t tempered his production. Whether it was dribble handoffs, high pick-and-rolls or momentum-swinging 3-pointers, Jokic was in his bag Tuesday night. Denver has won three of the last four in this series, and they all happen to coincide with Murray’s groove.

“The best part is we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Murray said of the tandem. “We play off each other. We read each other really well. He’s such a good passer, can shoot. There’s really nothing he can’t do … other than jump.”

Barton and the bench:  A difficult situation has become a huge plus for the Nuggets. Will Barton handled his benching with poise and professionalism. He never pouted, and that turned into 17 points off the bench in Game 5. The Nuggets are legitimately playing a nine-man rotation, and it’s taking a toll on San Antonio’s depth. Most of the Spurs’ bench is in a funk, while Denver’s reserves — Barton, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee — have all offered valuable minutes.

Read more via The Denver Post.