Devonte’ Graham Leads San Antonio to Victory Over the Nuggets, who fall into a three-way tie atop the West

San Antonio Spurs guard Devonte' Graham (4) scores the winning shot over Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio

In a stunning display of resilience, the San Antonio Spurs, led by Devonte’ Graham’s skillful floater through the lane, seized a last-second victory against the Denver Nuggets, prevailing 121-120 on Friday night. With only 0.9 seconds left on the clock, Graham’s basket culminated a dramatic comeback from a 23-point deficit, dealing a severe blow to the Nuggets, who are contenders for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The defeat dropped the Nuggets’ record to 56-25, forcing them out of exclusive possession of the Western lead and into a three-way tie with Oklahoma City and Minnesota. Despite previous advantages, tiebreakers rearranged the standings, placing the Thunder first, the Timberwolves second, and the Nuggets third just before the season’s final day.

Denver had entered the game riding a wave of momentum with three consecutive wins, including a crucial triumph over Minnesota. Coach Michael Malone expressed profound disappointment at the missed opportunity. “It’s truly disheartening,” Malone lamented. “We were completely in control of our destiny following Wednesday’s win, only to squander it tonight. The focus and intensity that were present against Minnesota were conspicuously absent today.”

San Antonio Spurs guard Devonte' Graham (4) scores the winning shot over Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27)
San Antonio Spurs guard Devonte’ Graham (4) scores the winning shot over Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27)

Amid these high stakes, Victor Wembanyama emerged as a standout performer for the undermanned Spurs, notching 34 points and 12 rebounds. Despite the team’s struggles throughout the season, Wembanyama celebrated this victory as perhaps the season’s most significant, underscoring its importance for the team’s growth and morale.

The Nuggets, spearheaded by Jamal Murray with 35 points and Nikola Jokic with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, seemed poised for an easy win with a commanding 76-53 lead early in the third quarter. However, the Spurs’ relentless spirit shone through in the final quarters. A significant shift in momentum was marked by a 16-4 run in the third quarter, initiated by a three-pointer from Wembanyama, and a 14-2 burst in the fourth, capped by Sandro Mamukelashvili’s aggressive layup.

Mamukelashvili, who scored a season-high 21 points along with 12 rebounds, reflected on the team’s tenacity. “We were down by 23, and rallying back like that, you just can’t give up. You push with everything you’ve got,” he stated.

In the final moments, the Nuggets faltered, missing six of their last seven shots, with Aaron Gordon scoring their final points on a layup with 1:19 remaining. The game also saw physical play, notably when Gordon knocked down the 7-foot-3 Wembanyama, an incident that escalated tensions but resulted in no foul call.

Reflecting on the intensity of the match, Mamukelashvili commented on his restraint during the confrontation, aware of the financial implications of receiving a technical foul. “Seeing that play, it fired me up. Thankfully, I was on the bench because stepping onto the court would have been costly,” he remarked with a mix of frustration and relief.

This dramatic victory for the Spurs not only averted a record-tying season loss but also demonstrated their potential and resilience against the league’s top teams.