Five Thoughts: Denver Nuggets vs San Antonio Spurs Game 4
1. A Lineup Reshuffle Worked
With Will Barton being relegated to bench duties, Torrey Craig stepped up in his new role starting for Denver. He was sensational in limiting the impact of both Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan.
Craig himself was hot from the field, nailing five threes in his 18 point performance. The superb two-way showing earned him plenty of praise from his coach, Mike Malone.
"I'd be lying if I said I knew Torrey Craig was going to go out and have 18 and hit five threes, but his defence, his rebounding, his shotmaking and Malik was still fantastic off the bench, so I didn't want to mess up the rhythm of that second unit."
2. Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice With Derrick White
Thanks in large part to the defensive prowess of Torrey Craig, Derrick White was unable to recreate his special performance for a second time. He finished the game with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 28 minutes of playing time.
Coach Popovich summed up the second-year guard’s game in a matter-of-fact fashion.
“I think this is a great education for him, last game and this game. He was a completely different player tonight at both ends of the court. He’s a young, dedicated guy who’s gonna keep learning. In a way, this is a great experience for him because every player has to go through it."
3. Making Threes Matters
Denver connected on almost 50% (15/31) of its threes in game four against San Antonio. The Spurs, on the other hand, could only manage a paltry 5/17 (29.4%) from the arc. While they don’t place a heavy reliance on the perimeter shot, the Spurs were the league’s most accurate shooting team from three.
Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Davis Bertans only shot one three between them. That will need to change as the series heads back to Denver.
4. DeMar DeRozan was Hella Frustrated
DeMar DeRozan’s production with San Antonio’s all season, including the playoffs, has gone unheralded. He was again solid as he racked up 19 points on 13 shooting possessions. However, it all reached a tipping point late in the game when the shooting guard lost his cool and was ejected for throwing the ball hard, in the direction of the referee.
With the result all but sewn up you can understand DeRozan’s frustration. It’s still surprising coming from a player who normally is quite measured in his emotions.
5. The Joker Had His Best Game of the Series
Nikola Jokic made his mark in his first postseason series in game four notching a near triple double: 29 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists.
Jokic’s production will be a key factor in the Nuggets continuing their winning form when they head back home.