LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. had 30 points and 15 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the San Antonio Spurs 132-126 on Wednesday.
Nikola Jokic added 25 points and 11 assists. Jerami Grant finished with 22 points.
Two days after posting a career-high 37 points in Denver’s win over Oklahoma City, Porter stayed hot, scoring 10 of the Nuggets’ first 16 points against San Antonio. He credited Jokic’s style of play for his success.
“If you know me, the Nuggets drafted me as a scorer,” Porter said. “They knew that was one of my big strengths. Playing with a superstar who would rather pass the ball than shoot the ball obviously is going to work out for both of us.”
Jokic said having Porter being so active is also helping to open up the floor for everyone.
“You know he’s going to make the shot. He’s going to be there. He’s going to rebound. He’s a big target for me,” Jokic said. “Just to know you have a really good player, a talented player, they cannot help with him. It’s helping me in that kind of way.”
Denver (45-23) led by as many as 12 in the first half before falling behind by nine in the third quarter. But the Nuggets found their footing in the final period, using a 13-4 run to nudge back in front 110-101 with 5:42 to play.
San Antonio, which started the day two games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West, dropped to 2-2 since the restart.
Rudy Gay scored 24 points and Derrick White added 23 points and seven assists for the Spurs (29-38).
Coach Gregg Popovich said despite the loss, his young players learned a lot having to contend with a passer and rebounder as good as Jokic.
“It should be an NBA rule: You can’t tap it to yourself,” Popovich said. “He taps it two or three times, then he gets it and lays it back in. It’s not just luck. He does it all the time.”
Denver played short-handed for the third straight game with Jamal Murray (left hamstring), Will Barton (left knee soreness) and Gary Harris (strained right hip) all out.
Still, coach Michael Malone said even with a playoff spot already secure, he wanted to see his team build good habits over its final games before the start of the playoffs.
“There’s no magic wand that I have, where I can just come into a meeting and say, ‘OK, playoffs are here. Let’s start playing at a high level,’” Malone said. “That’s something that you have to build on every single day, creating those habits. The last two games you’ve seen that.”
The Nuggets showed some of that urgency at the outset, sprinting out to a 16-4 lead and prompting Popovich to pull his entire starting lineup.
Denver continued to lead for most of the first half before San Antonio surged in the second quarter, connecting on four 3-pointers. The Spurs went 7 of 16 from beyond the arc in the opening 24 minutes and took a 65-62 lead into halftime.
Nuggets: Torrey Craig left the game with a bloodied mouth at the 2:30 mark of the second quarter after being smacked in the face by San Antonio’s Drew Eubanks as he spun underneath the basket. Eubanks received a flagrant foul on the play. Craig returned to the game.
Spurs: Marco Belinelli was available after missing two straight games with a left foot sprain but did not play.
“The funny thing is, I thought about this today, thinking about Michael Porter. Michael Porter was not selected to play in the Rising Stars Game this year. Are you kidding me?” — Malone.
Nuggets: Play Portland on Thursday
Spurs: Play Utah on Friday
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