LaMarcus Aldridge posted 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and DeMar DeRozan added 25 points, seven assists and seven boards as the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs beat the No. 2 Denver Nuggets 120-103 in Game 6 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Rudy Gay added 19 points for San Antonio, who tied the best-of-seven series 3-3 with the win.
Denver center Nikola Jokic dropped a franchise playoff-record 43 points on 19-of-30 shooting, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and teammate Jamal Murray contributed 16 points and six assists.
Spurs Have Upper Hand Entering Game 7
The Spurs may be traveling for Game 7, but they have the upper hand heading into the series finale.
The first reason is obvious: They put forth a near-flawless offensive performance and dominated in the fourth quarter, outscoring Denver 17-2 in the first five minutes en route to a 17-point win. What was a back-and-forth contest quickly turned into a blowout.
Second, San Antonio weathered Jokic's best punch and still won running away. The big man had 33 points, nine rebounds and eight assists through three quarters, but the Spurs still led 90-85 into the break.
That's largely because of the Spurs' dynamic duo of Aldridge and DeRozan, who combined to make 22 of 34 field-goal attempts.
Aldridge went to his patented mid-range jumpers, which proved unstoppable:
DeRozan was the best player on the court not named Jokic, filling the stat sheet and knocking down one of the game's biggest buckets when he rebounded his own free-throw miss for two before the first half ended:
Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News noted how well the Aldridge-DeRozan offense was excelling:
The latter part of his question was answered when the Spurs won, but it remains to be seen whether it will be good enough for Game 7.
Chances are it won't be as effective given how flawlessly the two played Thursday, but then the Nuggets have to contend with San Antonio's potent three-man bench.
Of note, Gay was a touch better than nearly everyone else, scoring his 19 points on an efficient 7-of-11 from the field. He helped quell a 10-2 Nuggets second-quarter run with back-to-back threes, the latter of which gave the Spurs the lead:
Patty Mills may have gone just 3-of-12, but he was a thorn in the Nuggets' side thanks to a trio of steals and six dimes. And Marco Belinelli hit a clutch three to extend that 17-2 run.
On the other end of the court, the Spurs' three-point defense was sensational, with the team holding Denver to 6-of-24 shooting from beyond the arc.
San Antonio went 10-of-24, and the three-point differential could be the key to a Game 7 win as well. During the regular season, San Antonio shot a league-best 39.2 percent from the outside, while Denver tied for 17th at 35.1 percent.
Lastly, the Spurs are a more experienced postseason team: No Nuggets starter ever took part in postseason play before this year. On the other sideline, the Spurs are led by a coach in Gregg Popovich who has 22 years of playoff experience in addition to five NBA titles.
Aldridge and DeRozan may not have won a championship when they were with the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors, respectively, but they have plenty of playoff experience. Both have reached the second round, and DeRozan has appeared in the conference finals on one occasion.
Game 7 should be a closely contested battle between two evenly matched teams, but signs point to the Spurs perhaps having a slight edge going into the final contest after an emphatic Game 6 victory.
Denver will host San Antonio for the series-deciding Game 7 on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.