Less than a week ago, the Denver Nuggets were cruising along with the top seed in the Western Conference virtually there for the taking.
Denver seemed primed to solidify its standing with two games against teams with a losing record, before a little humility arrived for the best team in the West.
After losing to Chicago on Wednesday night that snapped an eight-game home winning streak, the Nuggets fell to a San Antonio team that is 32 games under .500.
Denver takes a two-game skid into a home matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon.
“I think we have faith in what we can do,” Jamal Murray said.
Maybe the most surprising aspect of the 128-120 loss to the Spurs was that it came when Nikola Jokic had another triple-double. Denver had been 25-0 this season when the two-time MVP gets a triple-double but couldn’t pull it out despite his 37 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Nuggets’ bench was inefficient against the Spurs. The addition of Bruce Brown in the offseason and the signing of Reggie Jackson a few weeks ago were supposed to help that unit but it remains a work in progress.
On Friday, Denver’s bench was outscored 58-25 and it remains a unit that is unsettled. The group was pushed into a bigger role when Michael Porter Jr. was ejected in the third quarter of Friday’s loss.
Brooklyn is trying to stay out of the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference after starting the season as a contender to reach the NBA Finals. But Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the stars expected to lead the team, have been shipped out West as the roster has been reworked.
The early returns have been mixed but the Nets have won four of their last five games, including an overtime thriller at Minnesota on Friday night. Fittingly, one of the players acquired in the Durant trade, Mikal Bridges, has been a catalyst for the recent surge.
Bridges has 30 points in four of the last five games, including 34 in the 124-123 win over the Timberwolves.
“I don’t think anybody knew that Mikal was this amazing offensively, just being completely real,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “It’s our job to make sure that he can get to his spots and get his shots and continue to shoot, stack up these 30s as much as he possibly can.”
Dinwiddie, who came from Dallas in the Irving deal, has played well too. He is averaging 20.8 points a game in March and has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games.
He also is an effective defender defense, with his block of Mike Conley’s jumper preserving Friday’s win.
Sunday’s game is the first of two between the teams. The second one will take place at Brooklyn on March 19.
–Field Level Media