Nuggets have momentum after rare win in San Antonio

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

(AP) -- After posting a rare win in San Antonio to even the first-round series at 2-2, the Denver Nuggets will try to carry that momentum into Game 5 on Tuesday night against the visiting Spurs.

Denver made adjustments -- tactically and emotionally -- and outscored the Spurs 69-45 in the second and third quarters on Saturday to secure its first win in San Antonio since 2012.

The Nuggets have regained homecourt advantage as they try to make it past the first round for just the second time in 25 seasons.

Denver's 117-103 win in Game 4 came after coach Michael Malone put Torrey Craig in the starting lineup and brought struggling Will Barton off the bench. Craig, a superior defender, helped shut down DeMar DeRozan and allowed the Nuggets' other top-flight perimeter defender, Gary Harris, to hound point guard Derrick White.

The strategy worked well. White, who scored 36 in Game 3, was held to eight points and had four turnovers. DeRozan scored 19, but lost his cool after he was called for an offensive foul when Harris was guarding. He tossed the ball in the direction of the referee and was ejected with 5:01 left.

The league also hit DeRozan with a $25,000 fine for his actions.

"Frustration," DeRozan said after the game of why he tossed the ball. "I mean, I thought it was a bad call."

Craig is likely to remain in the starting lineup Tuesday night.

"Our two best perimeter defenders on their two best perimeter players," Malone said after the game.

Craig added a bonus on offense, scoring 18 points and hitting 5 of 7 of his 3-pointers.

San Antonio will have to make the next move. The Spurs have played well in the two games in Denver, winning the first and then holding a 19-point lead in Game 2 before Jamal Murray got hot in the fourth quarter and led the Nuggets to the win.

The theme of this series has been the young roster of the Nuggets against the veteran Spurs, who have been to the postseason 22 straight seasons. In the first three games that experience showed, and if not for a big fourth quarter in Game 2 San Antonio could have been up 3-0 before Saturday.

Denver has seemed to settle down in the series. Nikola Jokic has played like an MVP candidate and Harris has been solid on both ends of the floor. Winning a road game in the playoffs might give the Nuggets the spark they need to get over the top.

But the Spurs will likely tweak things. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points in 29 minutes in Game 4 and could see more action in the post, which will force Jokic to play more defense and possibly get into foul trouble.

A bounce-back game from White, who grew up in the Denver area rooting for the Nuggets, would be a boost.

No matter what happens the rest of the way this has been the most competitive first-round series in the NBA. The higher seeds in the other seven series either swept their opponents or were up 3-1. Only the Nuggets-Spurs were guaranteed a Game 6 after the first four matchups.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 22, 2019