SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Spurs got a pair of incredible performances just when they needed it to win Game 3 against the Nuggets on Thursday night, 118-108, and pull ahead in the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Derrick White took another step towards becoming the leader of this team, by putting together an all-star performance.
White scored 36 points and added five rebounds and five assists. The second-year guard also had three steals and a block
"He was obviously spectacular, I don't know what to say." said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich postgame reaction to Spurs Game 3 win...asked about Derrick White and joked “Eh, he’s OK”...#KSATsports #KSATnews #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/RvxpR8giNQ — RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) April 19, 2019
Postgame reaction from Denver head coach Michael Malone. He said Derrick White was hungry. Coach also had strong words for his guys, specifically Jamal Murray. @InstantReplaySA #Spurs #Nuggets pic.twitter.com/NxnGzyuE7Y — Larry Ramirez (@LRam2) April 19, 2019
Even more impressive was that White shot 15 of 21 from the floor as he drove around and in between Denver's defense.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and trying to get to the paint," White said. "I know a lot of times they try to bluff and get back, so I just tried to finish strong when I was driving to the paint and make the right play."
White started his career-high night with 10 points in the first quarter as the Spurs jumped out to a 31-22 lead.
White went to bench to rest and the Nuggets opened the second quarter with a 16-0 run and took a 10-point lead.
📹DERRICK. WHITE. PODIUM. GAME...talks about emotions he showed throughout game...'Every now and then I get like that'...also talks playing w/chip on his shoulder and path from G-League to podium of #NBAPlayoffs...White was sensational in Spurs Game 3 win...#KSATsports #KSATnews pic.twitter.com/tizzC6d8D5 — RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) April 19, 2019
The game began to resemble the fourth quarter of Game 2, but White returned and the Spurs fought back to take a 61-58 lead into halftime.
"It's really his first season in the NBA where he is playing a lot of minutes and he is playing like that so hats off to him," said Jakob Poeltl.
"He was awesome, especially on defense," said DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan wasn't bad himself, finishing with 25 points, but a lot of credit had to go to Poeltl.
The Spurs young big man was left on an island much of the time to defend Denver all-star Nikola Jokic.
Jokic scored 22 points, but Poeltl made him work for everything he got.
"Trying to pick up as much as possible. Trying to make his life as tough as possible trying to take away his favorite moves and force him to do something that he doesn't want to do" Poeltl said.
The Spurs will now try to force the Nuggets into a near impossible situation.
San Antonio can put the Nuggets on the brink of elimination with a win Saturday.
After Thursday's game, Denver felt confident despite being down in the series. Paul MIllsap went as far as saying they were going to win Saturday's Game 4.
"Some people like to gamble, got to be able to double down if you're going to guarantee," DeRozan said.
Guarantee or not, San Antonio wants to stay ready for whatever comes their way from the Nuggets.
"You can't really feel comfortable you have to stay hungry," said LaMarcus Aldridge.
"I know they are going to bring it. They've played great all year and we expect them to come out ready to go," White said. "So we are going to make some adjustments and be better in Game 4."
Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.