Jokic powers Nuggets past Spurs for 3rd straight victory

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 10 assists, Michael Porter Jr. added 24 points and the Denver Nuggets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 115-109 on Monday night for their third straight victory.

Denver point guard Jamal Murray added 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Murray had six points in the final quarter, going 3 for 4 from the field.

“He had some really good moments in that fourth quarter to help us seal the win,” Porter said. “I’m really happy for him, but that’s what Jamal does. He’s a big-time player in those moments."

It was San Antonio’s fourth straight loss following a 5-2 start.

Keldon Johnson had 30 points and Josh Richardson added 22 for the Spurs. Tre Jones had a career-high 20 points and a season-high nine assists

The Nuggets were not as efficient as they were Saturday in a 126-101 home victory against the Spurs, and it almost cost them.

“Back in Denver they were not as aggressive as they were tonight,” Denver guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “They came out aggressive. They were attacking the basket and, obviously, they were knocking down shots.”

Fortunately for Denver, San Antonio had a season-high 24 turnovers. The Nuggets scored 35 points off those turnovers in the opener of a four-game homestand.

“The Nuggets did a good job of just getting in passing lanes,” Richardson said. “Their wings were staying home a lot, so it kind of forced us to figure out another way to attack.”

The Nuggets had 33 assists after collecting a season-high 37 against the Spurs on Saturday.

San Antonio did force 20 turnovers against a Denver team that was averaging 15.2 per game.

The Spurs cut the Nuggets’ lead to 96-93 four minutes into the fourth quarter when Devin Vassell stripped Porter at the top of the key and raced for a two-handed dunk. A 3-pointer by Johnson followed quickly by a steal and breakaway layup by Jones gave the Spurs a 101-100 lead.

Murray and Jokic closed the game out for the Nuggets. The duo combined for 12 points in the fourth.

Vassell finished with 17 points.

GOAL!

In addition to shooting 11 for 20 from the field, Jokic had three blocks, two steals and seven deflections.

Malone wasn’t sure how many passes the two-time reigning MVP deflected with his feet, but it would have added to what the Denver coach says is a league-leading total.

“Nikola might be the best I’ve ever seen, he would have been a hell of a goalie, with kick saves,” Malone said. “He’s amazing not just with his hands but using his feet to disrupt pocket passes and pick and rolls. He breaks up a lot of those not just with his hands but his feet.”

TIP-INS

Nuggets: F Jeff Green had six points in 18 minutes after being listed as probable with a sprained left finger. … G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope received a technical foul with 2:40 left in the first half after continually complaining about a defensive foul. Vassell appeared to initiate contact and push off near midcourt, but Caldwell-Pope received the foul. Denver’s bench signaled Vassell pushed off, but Nuggets coach Michael Malone opted not to challenge the call.

Spurs: San Antonio’s average loss is by 20 points. All but two of its five losses have been by double figures, including the worst home loss in franchise history during a 143-100 defeat against Toronto on Nov. 2. … After initially saying Vassell would come off the bench, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced the third-year guard would return to the starting lineup. Vassell was a sub the previous two games following a four-game absence due to a sore left knee. … C Zach Collins sat out with bruised lower left leg.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: At Indiana on Wednesday in second game of a four-game trip.

Spurs: Host Memphis on Wednesday in the second game of a three-game homestand.

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Raul Dominguez, The Associated Press