DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets watched not one, not two but three close-in shots miss in the closing seconds.
Things are definitely bouncing their way at the moment.
Jokic had 26 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds to help the Nuggets win their eighth straight by holding off the San Antonio Spurs 121-119 on Friday night when DeMar DeRozan’s shot attempt at the buzzer rolled out.
“In those situations, the clock moves so slow,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It’s like you’re watching a movie. I was just waiting for the buzzer to sound before the ball went through the hoop. Feel really fortunate to pull this one out.”
The Nuggets led wire-to-wire, building a lead that stretched to as many as 18 points in the first half. But things got tight at the end after Derrick White hit two free throws with 10.7 seconds remaining to trim it to 120-119.
After Michael Porter Jr. made one of two free throws, the Nuggets were anticipating the Spurs calling a timeout.
Instead, Keldon Johnson sped up the floor and, with Porter guarding him closely, bounced a running layup off the back iron. Waiting on the other side of the basket was Dejounte Murray, whose left-handed tip went wide and to DeRozan. The putback by DeRozan rimmed out at the horn as the Nuggets breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“This is a little bit of a stressful job,” Malone said. "We’re lucky to win this game."
From DeRozan's vantage point, he thought all three attempts were good looks and going in.
“We fought hard,” DeRozan said. “I can’t be more proud of our team.”
Jokic posted his 54th career triple-double. Porter had 22 points and reserve Monte Morris chipped in 21 as the Nuggets beat the Spurs for the second time in three nights.
Aaron Gordon still hasn’t lost in a Nuggets uniform since being acquired in a trade with Orlando on March 25. He finished with 11 points.
White had 25 points and DeRozan added 24 for the sputtering Spurs, who have dropped five in a row. DeRozan also had 12 assists.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” White said. “Keep competing.”
The Nuggets currently are the hottest team in the league behind the play of Jokic, the Denver big man who can do a little bit of everything. That included a dunk in which he did a pull-up on the rim, a deep hook and one pinpoint pass after another.
“Jokic is maybe the best passer in the league, certainly the best big man passer,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He sets the table for everybody.”
As a team, the Nuggets finished with 32 assists. It was their 18th straight game with 25 or more assists, the longest streak in franchise history.
“The greatest challenge that we have right now is not getting bored with success and not allowing bad habits to creep in,” Malone said.
No worry about that.
“We're still trying to prove ourselves to ourselves that we’re really good — and also to the world,” Morris said. “We still have a lot of work to do."
Spurs: C Gorgui Dieng reaggravated his shoulder injury. Popovich wasn’t sure how long Dieng would be out. … Lonnie Walker IV returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a sore right wrist. He had eight points.
Nuggets: PG Jamal Murray missed a third straight game with right knee soreness. … Morris scored eight of his points in a pivotal stretch to close out the third. … Porter had 10 boards. … Jokic had six of Denver's 18 turnovers.
Malone’s vote for best coach in NBA history? Easy, Popovich.
The 72-year-old Spurs coach has 1,301 career regular-season wins.
“For him to be as engaged and locked in and committed as he is at this juncture of his journey, his career, his life, is remarkable,” Malone said. “I think I speak for most people, he’ll go down as the greatest coach in NBA history if he hangs it up today.”
Spurs: At Dallas on Sunday in game No. 3 of their five-game trip.
Nuggets: Host Boston on Sunday to close out a five-game homestand.
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer