The Denver Nuggets look to get back on the winning track and strengthen their stranglehold on first place in the Western Conference when they travel to San Antonio to play the struggling Spurs on Friday.
The Nuggets (46-20) head to the Alamo City after a 117-96 loss at home to Chicago on Wednesday that snapped a four-game winning streak. Nikola Jokic had 18 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Denver in the loss but hit just 7 of 16 shots, snapping a 51-game streak in which he made at least half of his attempts from the floor.
Aaron Gordon scored 17 points, with Michael Porter Jr. adding 12 and Jamal Murray posting 11. Denver's 96 points was its second lowest output of the season.
"One game doesn't mean we're a bad team, but I think we have weaknesses like every team has weaknesses," Jokic said.
Denver led by a point at the half before Chicago took charge early in the third quarter. The Nuggets climbed back to within five late in the third would never seriously challenge the rest of the way.
"Just no defense," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said afterward. "Nothing went right tonight. We didn't play well."
Denver, which entered Thursday seven games up on Sacramento and Memphis in the West standings, has won eight of its past 10 games. The Nuggets are a game and a half behind Milwaukee in the race for the best record in the league and can ill afford to lose to San Antonio.
The Nuggets captured the first two games of the season series with San Antonio, with both games in early November.
The Spurs return to play after a rare four-day break and on the heels of back-to-back losses to Houston, the latest a 142-110 setback on the road on Sunday. Keita Bates-Diop paced San Antonio with 17 points while Charles Bassey and Devonte' Graham scored 14 apiece.
The Spurs were without injured starters Zach Collins (left ankle), Tre Jones (left foot) and Jeremy Sochan (right knee).
Defense was the culprit for San Antonio in Sunday's loss as Houston shot 61.2 percent from the floor. The Spurs surrendered 74 points in the paint and 34 points in transition in dropping their 18th game in their past 20 outings.
"I feel like transition really killed us," Bassey said afterward. "We (have) just got to learn to get back on transition. I think as a team we're going to talk about it. Probably two guys go for an offensive rebound and the other three guys are just getting back or just one guy is going."
Despite San Antonio's historic swoon, it's still a game better in the Western Conference standings than cellar-dwelling Houston heading into the final month of the regular season. As predicted before the season, the Spurs' need to rebuild and a slew of injuries have all but guaranteed they will get one of the top three picks in the NBA Draft in June.
--Field Level Media