Nine nuggets for nine Nikola Jokic dimes in a 102-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
1. When Michael Malone was plotting how his team would finish close games this summer, he probably didn’t envision going with a Monte Morris-Jamal Murray-Juancho Hernangomez-Trey Lyles-Mason Plumlee quintet. That’s who was on the floor as the Nuggets hung on against the Spurs on Friday. Morris, whose bad games are most backup point guards’ good games, hit a pair of clutch free throws with 7.2 seconds left, and Denver prevented San Antonio from getting a game-tying 3 off to avenge an ugly loss in San Antonio earlier in the week.
“To have the record we have, to be as young as we are with all the injuries we’ve had and with the schedule we’ve played — it’s really tremendous,” Malone said. “We’re winning games somehow, some way.”
Malone didn’t have a lot to work with when Nikola Jokic fouled out with 48.3 seconds to go. Malik Beasley, who scored 21 before leaving the game in the fourth with a left ankle injury, was also unavailable. Murray was on the floor, but he was banged up after twisting his right ankle earlier in the quarter. Denver (22-11) still got it done.
2. How about Morris’ rise? In less than a year, he’s gone from G Leaguer to a closer on one of the NBA’s best teams. Malone entrusted him with the ball on a crucial possession in the final seconds Friday. Naturally, Morris, one of the smartest decision makers in all of basketball this year, delivered.
Morris didn’t have his best scoring night (seven points on 1-of-7 shooting), but he impacted the game elsewhere with five rebounds, seven assists and one turnover. The Nuggets outscored the Spurs by seven points in his 21 minutes on the floor. Morris has been as solid as a diamond-encrusted slab of granite all season.