Quick Grades: Spurs @ Nuggets – Game 7, 2019 NBA Playoffs

Season over. After scoring only 34 points on 22% shooting in an anemic first half, the Spurs trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. But the good guys didn’t quit, as they trimmed the deficit to 11 points going into the fourth quarter.

In the deciding period, San Antonio kept chipping away; their defense tightened and their offense was able to generate better shots. Eventually, the Spurs cut Denver’s lead down to two points on a Bryn Forbes dunk with 52.2 left in regulation. Unfortunately, Jamal Murray answered with a floater, the Spurs came up empty on the next possession … and then the Spurs inexplicably let time expire. 

Strange end to a strange season, I guess. Congrats to the Nuggets on a well-played series.

While the Spurs definitely let opportunities slip through their fingers in the this first round matchup, it’s still impressive how they bounced back from the Game 5 demolition to grab Game 6 and then almost escape with an epic comeback in Game 7. A lot of coulda, woulda, shouldas tonight but, big picture, they put up a better fight than any other underdog team in the first round and were thisclose to taking out the second seed in the Western Conference. 

LaMarcus Aldridge C
Loved the defensive effort by Aldridge. Played Jokic tough, especially in the fourth quarter. Timely help defense. On the other end, though, he wasn’t playing with enough force. Too much settling led to an inefficient offensive performance.

DeMar DeRozan C
Tale of two halves: DeRozan was 1-for-10 in the first half and appeared to be overwhelmed by the moment. Thankfully, he turned it around in the second half with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists on 6-for-11 shooting. His defense was energetic throughout, however the Spurs needed him to play like he did in the second half for all four quarters. 

Derrick White D
White just wasn’t doing much of anything. Tepid defense. Shying away from ball-handling and playmaking on offense. Eventually, the Nuggets stopped rotating to him at all in the second half and he still couldn’t make them pay. Pop — controversially, I’m sure — went elsewhere. 

Bryn Forbes A-
Forbes showed up big time when the Spurs needed him most. In the second half, he led the way with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field, including 3-for-3 on three-pointers. It’s safe to say he wasn’t intimidated by the moment. Defensively, he was also pretty damn good, all things considered. 

Jakob Poeltl C+
With the Spurs desperately needing offense, Poeltl spent most of his time on the bench. While he was on the court, his defense was only decent but his rebounding was stout. 

Rudy Gay A
If not for Rudy Gay, I’m not sure if the Spurs score 60 points tonight. He carried the team for stretches, particularly in the first quarter when he scored nine straight points after S.A. only mustered four points in the game’s first nine minutes. His aggressiveness against mismatches gave the team life. Defensively, he held up much better than he had all series long. 

Patty Mills C
With White not providing much of anything, Mills got extra time … and mostly followed suit. He gave better effort but was less effective on defense. On offense, he continued to be dry shooting-wise but he did chip in a few good passes. And the Nuggets at least rotated to him when he was off the ball. 

Marco Belinelli F
I’m not sure how much worse Belinelli could have played if he tried. Terrible defense that the Nuggets specifically targeted. Did nothing positive on offense — bad decisions, limited movement and shriveled when pressured. So much for a veteran stepping up and playing big in a big game. 

Pop C-
Good: Eventually found a lineup that was cutting into Denver’s lead. I agreed with playing DeRozan, Aldridge and Forbes heavy minutes. Going more with Gay and less with Poeltl also made sense given the circumstances. Bad: I don’t know what the hell happened on that last defensive possessions. Spurs HAD TO foul down four with 28 second remaining but Pop wasn’t motioning to foul (none of the assistant coaches were either). And then the Spurs get the rebound and nobody motions for timeout? What? Outside of that terrible bit of time management, Pop has to be docked for the lackluster attack coming out of the gates. That was just terrible offense in the first half — something, anything should have been done. Debatable: Playing Mills over White. On one hand, White wasn’t playing well and Mills theoretically has the knowhow and big game experience to help right the ship. And, scoreboard-wise, the Spurs did execute their comeback with Mills in the game. On the other hand, White is obviously the better player. It could have been a great learning experience and maybe the Nuggets are shut down even more in the fourth with White on the court. Then again, preserving White’s confidence going into the offseason and not allowing him to fall completely on his face while in the spotlight was the right call. Tough to say.

LJ Ellis