DENVER (AP) San Antonio has dominated the Nuggets for four seasons, so Denver wasn’t apologizing for finally beating the depleted Spurs.
“A win is a win,” Nikola Jokic said. “We’re going to take it.”
Jokic had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Will Barton scored 20 points and Denver beat the struggling Spurs 117-109 on Tuesday night.
Jokic notched his fourth triple-double of the season to lead the Nuggets to their fifth win in six games and finally one against San Antonio. The Spurs had won 15 of 16 against Denver, including the first two meetings this season.
“I know they’re banged up, they have some guys out, but so do we,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They have the best coach in NBA history. They’re always going to play the right way.”
Denver outscored the Spurs 30-19 in the fourth quarter to rally from seven down late in the third.
Joffrey Lauvergne scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker had 17 points for San Antonio. The Spurs have lost five of six heading into their All-Star break.
“We made some poor choices offensively,” Spurs forward Pau Gasol said. “We had a couple of turnovers in a row and they capitalized on easy transition points and that’s when they broke the game open.”
San Antonio was again without its top two players in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Leonard has missed all but nine games and Aldridge sat for the second straight night to rest his sore right knee.
Things got worse when Manu Ginobli left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return.
“He just felt something in the bottom of his foot and he didn’t want to take any chances,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a sprain.”
Lauvergne stepped up in Aldridge’s absence and surpassed his previous high of 22 points for the Nuggets nearly two years ago. His 11 rebounds were a season high.
Lauvergne’s layup early in the fourth gave the Spurs a 100-99 lead but Denver closed out on an 18-9 run. Gary Harris had seven of his 15 points in the last 7:28 and Jokic got his 10th assist on Wilson Chandler’s driving layup with 3:19 left that gave Denver a 114-103 lead.
Jokic has 10 career triple-doubles.
“I was aggressive and then they started collapsing on me and I just made an extra pass,” he said. “That was an easy, easy game for me.”
Jamal Murray scored 17 points after missing Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s morning shootaround with chest discomfort. He was a game-time decision but played 38 minutes.
Spurs: University of Colorado coach Tad Boyle was on hand to see his former player, Derrick White, now with San Antonio. White had two points in two minutes. … Aldridge will participate in All-Star weekend despite sitting out Monday and Tuesday. … The Spurs’ bench outscored the starters 66-43.
Nuggets: Chandler had 17 points and eight rebounds. … G Devin Harris made his home debut. Harris was acquired from Dallas in a three-team trade last Thursday and played in Saturday’s win at Phoenix. … F Mason Plumlee (right calf strain) missed his seventh straight game but is expected back after the All-Star break.
Murray wouldn’t specify if he is injured or is battling illness but said there was no question he was going to play even though he was bedridden for a couple of days.
Murray didn’t miss a game as a rookie last season despite playing with a core-muscle injury that required offseason surgery.
“I don’t miss a lot of games,” he said.
Lauvergne played his first two seasons in Denver, including 59 games in 2015-16, Malone’s first year as coach. So Malone jokingly took credit for Lauvergne’s play Tuesday night.
“Well, we developed him. He learned all that here,” Malone said. “I’m happy for Joffrey. I’ve always been a big fan of his. He’s a hard worker and obviously he took advantage of the opportunity.”
Lauvergne has played sparingly this season but averaged 20.5 minutes the last two games.
“I understand how the game goes in the NBA,” he said. “Of course I would like to play more because I know I can play. I know I can be a good player. But I also understand this part of it.”
Spurs: At the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 23.
Nuggets: At the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
By MICHAEL KELLY, Associated Press
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