BY RAUL DOMINGUEZ Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan helped San Antonio overcome a huge effort by Nikola Jokic and force a Game 7 against Denver.
Aldridge scored 26 points and DeRozan added 25 to help the Spurs beat the Nuggets 120-103 on Thursday night.
“They’ve been great at throwing a punch at us and running away with it,” DeRozan said. “We tried to sustain that and understand whatever they do we have to match it, be more aggressive, understand we have to keep our rhythm, being aggressive on both ends and we did that.”
Jokic scored 27 of his 43 points in the second half to post the third highest point total this postseason behind the 50 by Portland’s Damian Lillard and 45 from Golden State’s Kevin Durant. Jokic also finished with 12 rebounds and nine assists to fall an assist shy of his second triple double of the series.
Game 7 is Saturday in Denver, where the Nuggets had the league’s best home record during the regular season. The winner will face Portland.
“I don’t know, it’s my first Game 7,” Jokic said when asked what he expected in the finale. “It’s probably going to be even tougher than this one.”
The young Nuggets have to ponder that after a strong effort wasn’t enough in Game 6.
Denver dominated the paint, outscoring San Antonio 72 to 36, but the Nuggets were 8 for 31 outside the paint. The Spurs were 4 for 9 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help overcome Jokic’s output.
“He played great tonight, he did his thing, that’s for sure,” San Antonio center Jakob Poeltl said. “But I think we answered that with a team effort we had a lot of guys coming in and putting up big points and contributing in different ways.”
The Spurs had five players score in double figures, including a series-high 19 points from Rudy Gay. Every San Antonio starter shot 50 percent from the field and, for the first time in the series, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Nuggets’, 36-13.
“We had a lot of people participate tonight,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Lot of people came and had good games. I think the Nuggets have had that pretty regularly and we had that tonight, so, that was great to see.”
The Spurs needed the win to continue the series after a listless performance in a 108-90 loss in Denver on Tuesday in which the Nuggets led by as many as 30 points.
San Antonio surged to a 34-24 lead by shooting 67 percent from the field in the first quarter while Denver missed all seven of its 3-point attempts.
Jokic kept the Nuggets in the game in the third quarter, scoring 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
San Antonio went on a 22-4 run to open the fourth quarter to take command.
Jamal Murray added 16 points and Gary Harris had 14 points for the Nuggets.
Nuggets: The Nuggets have advanced beyond the first round in eight of 16 previous postseason appearances. Their previous advancement was 2009 when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. … Denver has used a nine-player rotation during the series. Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles and Jarred Vanderbilt have played a combined 18 minutes in the series. Isaiah Thomas is active but has not played. …
Spurs: San Antonio is 23-9 against Denver in seven postseason matchups. The Nuggets’ lone series win over the Spurs came in the opening round of the 1985 playoffs. … It was Popovich’s 283rd postseason game, moving him past Pat Riley for second-most playoff games coached. Former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson tops the list with 333 career postseason games coached. … San Antonio surpassed 40,000 postseason points in franchise history, joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers as the only franchises to surpass that figure.
Malone is curious to see how Murray was injured on a screen by Poeltl in the third quarter.
Murray stayed in the game after remaining on the court for about 15 seconds after taking a knee to the left thigh on a screen by Poeltl. Murray jumped up after the Nuggets called time, grabbed his left thigh and worked to stretch it out. He returned after the timeout and promptly drained a jumper.
Malone said the Spurs have set illegal screens during the series, video of which he has sent to the league.
“The response from the league has been that we’re right, but for some reason they don’t catch them during the game,” Malone said. “I’ll have to watch that play, obviously. Jamal got taken out on that play. I don’t know if it was dirty or not. I don’t think Jakob Poeltl is a dirty player, I really don’t, but I have to watch the film to see how that happened and how Jamal went down with that injury.”