DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets ran San Antonio right off the court. Long before, the officials ran Gregg Popovich.
Nikola Jokic scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out nine of Denver’s season-high 41 assists as the Nuggets routed San Antonio 113-85 on Wednesday night in a game in which the Spurs coach 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.
“We played,” Murray said, “the way we want to play.”
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.
Popovich appeared livid over a non-foul call and called time out to argue with the officials. After two technicals, he was sent to the locker room at 10:57 of the opening quarter. The last time a coach was ejected within the first two minutes of a game was Washington’s Flip Saunders on Jan. 2, 2012, at Boston, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Saunders was ejected 1:46 into that game.
Following the game, Popovich didn’t have much to say.
“You’ll have to ask the officials,” he said.
Soon after, Popovich joined the scrum where Nuggets coach Michael Malone was conducting his postgame interviews. The exchange between the coaches was nearly as long as Popovich’s appearance in the contest.
Malone: “We were just talking about an NBA record that was set tonight.”
Popovich: “What was the record? What happened?”
Malone: “Somebody got thrown out in 63 seconds.”
Popovich: “Are you serious? That person must have hit somebody. Somebody get hit tonight? Somebody get cursed at or anything?”
And just like that, Popovich was off for the exit.
“That’s one of a kind right there,” Malone said. “I don’t know what to say after that.”
LaMarcus Aldridge and Lonnie Walker IV each had 16 points for the Spurs, who slipped into the eighth spot with the loss.
“You’ve got to give them credit. They played well,” said DeMar DeRozan, who had 11 points. “It’s tough coming into this place, especially on a back-to-back. They use their advantages coming here. They played well. They beat us. We couldn’t make shots. We never got anything going.”
Spurs: Assistant coach Ettore Messina took over for Popovich on the bench. … The Spurs never led.
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. … The Nuggets improved to 32-7 at the Pepsi Center. It’s the best home mark in the West.
Denver moved to 11-1 on the second night of a back-to-back.
“I’ve been on a lot of really good basketball teams, part of really good basketball teams, and I’ve never seen a team go 11-1 on the second night of a back-to back,” Malone said. “That’s an incredible stat for us.”
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.