DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out nine of Denver’s season-high 41 assists as the Nuggets routed the Spurs 113-85 on Wednesday night in a game in which San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was ejected after just 63 seconds.
Jamal Murray added 14 points and 11 assists for a Nuggets team that’s currently holding down the No. 2 seed in the West with four games remaining. The squad rebounded from a 116-102 loss to top-seeded Golden State a night earlier.
Denver steadily built a commanding lead against the Spurs before emptying the bench with about 5 minutes remaining. Popovich was long gone and didn’t have to endure his team’s implosion.
An irate Popovich was given two quick technicals and was sent to the locker room at 10:57 of the opening quarter. The last time a coach was ejected within the first 2 minutes of a game was Washington’s Flip Saunders on January 2, 2012, at Boston, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Saunders was ejected 1:46 into that game.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Lonnie Walker IV each had 16 points for the Spurs, who slipped into the eighth spot with the loss.
The Nuggets improved to 32-7 at the Pepsi Center. It’s the best home mark in the West.
Spurs: Assistant coach Ettore Messina took over for Popovich on the bench. …F DeMar DeRozan was held to 11 points.
Nuggets: Denver is 24-2 this season when holding an opponent under 100 points. … F Jarred Vanderbilt got into the game late on his 20th birthday. … Monte Morris and Malik Beasley each had 19 points off the bench.
NOTHING UP HIS SLEEVE
Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t hold anything back even if the Nuggets potentially might face the Spurs in the first round.
“I’m not a magician. I don’t have cards up my sleeve, nothing like that,” Malone said. “We need a win. We’ve got to find a way to play better basketball. …. The time for hiding stuff and playing close to the vest, now is not the time for that.”
HALL OF FAMER
The Air Force Academy recently announced Popovich will be inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. Popovich served as the team captain of the Falcons in 1970 and later returned as an assistant coach.
“I’m surprised they haven’t done it earlier because the 14 points a game I averaged was pretty awesome,” Popovich cracked. “All 37 fans every game had a hell of a night and really cheered for me. It’s amazing it took so long.
“In all seriousness, anything that has anything to do with the Academy is a thrill and an honor.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Being from Colorado, Spurs guard Derrick White’s ticket request was about 20.
“And it’s still not enough,” said White, who finished with five points. “It’s always special to come home and play in front of your friends and family, people that have been there your whole life.”
Spurs: At Washington on Friday.
Nuggets: Begin a home-and-home with Portland on Friday at Pepsi Center.