SAN ANTONIO (AP) — After their recent struggles offensively, the Spurs welcomed the chance to match baskets with the Denver Nuggets and play at a fast pace.
Even if it led to a few anxious seconds.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points and San Antonio escaped with a 106-104 victory over Denver on Tuesday night.
“That young team has come leaps and bounds,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Mike (Malone, Nuggets coach) does a great job with them. So, it’s a good win for us.”
San Antonio matched a season high with 33 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
It was a welcome change for San Antonio, which was in an offensive rut in its two previous games of a five-game homestand.
The Spurs scored 60 points in the first half against the Nuggets after averaging just 40 against Philadelphia and Sacramento, including a season-low 31 against the 76ers on Friday.
“That’s definitely the Spurs way,” San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray said. “Sharing the ball, playing defense and just playing together. That’s what we did and we came out with a good win.”
San Antonio had four players in double figures, including 18 points each from Kyle Anderson and Pau Gasol. Anderson set a career scoring high while shooting 9 for 12 from the field.
The Nuggets were able to match the Spurs’ production despite playing the second night of a back-to-back after losing at home to Boston 111-110.
Every Denver starter scored in double figures with Jamal Murray leading the way with 18 points and Gary Harris adding 17.
San Antonio had to battle to win its 11th straight at home over Denver. There were 18 lead changes and the Nuggets came within inches of a game-winning 19th.
Jamal Murray’s 3-pointer with 31.6 seconds remaining pulled Denver within 106-104. After San Antonio guard Danny Green missed a 3-pointer, the Nuggets raced down the floor and furiously passed the ball three times to set up Will Barton for a 25-foot 3-pointer that rattled in and out of the rim.
“I just couldn’t believe that the opportunities they penetrated, they didn’t even look at the 2,” Gasol said. “They were trying to set up someone for the 3. They had a great look.”
The Nuggets wanted the win.
“It was great ball movement,” Denver forward Darrell Arthur said. “We used the clock and we got the shot we wanted to get. It just didn’t fall.”
The Nuggets finished 10 for 23 on 3-pointers while shooting 47 percent from the field while San Antonio shot 50 percent.
Denver made their first five three-pointers in taking a 17-12 lead, but the Spurs responded by making their first three 3s. It set the tone for a back-and-forth, high-scoring duel.
“Well, I was watching them last night and figured they’d be a little tired tonight, but they came out hitting,” Anderson said. “So, hats off to them. They were able to come in and make shots, but we knew them. We know they’re a good team, so we just had to buckle down and get the win somehow.”
Nuggets: Mason Plumlee did not play after straining his right calf against Boston on Monday night. Plumlee remained in Denver for an MRI while the team flew to San Antonio. Malone said Plumlee is “going to be out for a little while.” . Wilson Chandler was available to play but did not enter the game after being listed as probable with an illness.
Spurs: Aldridge has scored 20-plus points in 33 of 50 games this season. His previous best for 20-point games was 31 in 74 games during his inaugural season with the Spurs in 2016. . Aldridge was assessed his third technical foul this season with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter after arguing about a non-call against Denver’s defense. Aldridge has 18 career technical fouls but only one ejection. . Anderson established a career high with 363 points. His previous season’s best was 350 points in 2016.
OLDER GETTING BETTER
Manu Ginobili joined Sacramento’s Vince Carter as the only 40-and-older players with 40 3-pointers in a season.
Ginobili finished 3 for 6 on 3s while scoring 14 points, including six in 31 seconds in the first quarter. After sinking a free throw after being fouled on a reverse layup, he drained the first of his three 3-pointers. Ginobili would later stretch for a low pass and then throw it behind his back to Davis Bertans, who would score on a runner.
Arthur found out Tuesday morning that he would make his first start of the season.
The veteran forward appeared in only seven games this season entering Tuesday, playing a total of 50 minutes. He played 19 minutes against the Spurs, establishing a season high with seven points in the first half and finished with 10 points.
“I’m surprised I didn’t get as tired as I thought I was going to be today,” Arthur said.
Nuggets: Host Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Spurs: Host Houston on Thursday night.