San Antonio — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan helped San Antonio overcome a huge effort by Nikola Jokic and force a Game 7 against Denver.
Aldridge scored 26 points and DeRozan added 25 to help the Spurs beat the Nuggets, 120-103, on Thursday night.
“They’ve been great at throwing a punch at us and running away with it,” DeRozan said. “We tried to sustain that and understand whatever they do we have to match it, be more aggressive, understand we have to keep our rhythm, being aggressive on both ends and we did that.”
Jokic scored 27 of his 43 points in the second half to post the third highest point total this postseason behind the 50 by Portland’s Damian Lillard and 45 from Golden State’s Kevin Durant. Jokic also finished with 12 rebounds and nine assists to fall an assist shy of his second triple double of the series.
Game 7 is Saturday in Denver, where the Nuggets had the league’s best home record during the regular season. The winner will face Portland.
“I don’t know, it’s my first Game 7,” Jokic said when asked what he expected in the finale. “It’s probably going to be even tougher than this one.”
The young Nuggets have to ponder that after a strong effort wasn’t enough in Game 6.
Denver dominated the paint, outscoring San Antonio 72 to 36, but the Nuggets were 8 for 31 outside the paint. The Spurs were 4 for 9 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help overcome Jokic’s output.
“He played great tonight, he did his thing, that’s for sure,” San Antonio center Jakob Poeltl said. “But I think we answered that with a team effort we had a lot of guys coming in and putting up big points and contributing in different ways.”
The Spurs had five players score in double figures, including a series-high 19 points from Rudy Gay. Every San Antonio starter shot 50 percent from the field and, for the first time in the series, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Nuggets’, 36-13.
“We had a lot of people participate tonight,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Lot of people came and had good games. I think the Nuggets have had that pretty regularly and we had that tonight, so, that was great to see.”
The Spurs needed the win to continue the series after a listless performance in a 108-90 loss in Denver on Tuesday in which the Nuggets led by as many as 30 points.
San Antonio surged to a 34-24 lead by shooting 67 percent from the field in the first quarter while Denver missed all seven of its 3-point attempts.
Jokic kept the Nuggets in the game in the third quarter, scoring 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
San Antonio went on a 22-4 run to open the fourth quarter to take command.
Jamal Murray added 16 points and Gary Harris had 14 points for the Nuggets.