Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

New arena, same result

Nuggets route Spurs in I-35 Series

AUSTIN – After losing 23 games at the Frost Bank Center home in San Antonio and losing in both Dallas and Houston this season, it was only right if the Spurs made the clean sweep in the state’s capital. 

The Spurs played in Austin for the second consecutive year in part of the “I-35 Series,” where San Antonio hosted the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets and MVP front-runner Nikola Jokić. The Western Conference-leading Nuggets took care of the business, led by 31 points from Jokic in the 117-106 defeat over the Spurs on Friday night in the Moody Center.

The I-35 Series is the organization’s way of trying to expand the team’s fanbase, though without much detail. Even Denver’s coach Mike Malone was left unaware of the game’s relocation. 

“I really don’t even know why we’re here,” Malone said. “I’m still trying to figure that out. But, you know, we are here, so you got to embrace it.”

“It has a preseason feel to it. And I hope for our players that once that jump ball goes up, that we understand this is not the preseason. This is a real game and we have to lock in and give it the attention and respect that it deserves.”

The Nuggets did exactly that in the opening frame, outscoring the Spurs by 19 points to take a commanding 37-18 lead. Jokić took control of the game as the two-time MVP scored 15 points in the first quarter. San Antonio, perhaps ignited by the new crowd, battled back against Denver in the second and third quarters.

“I’m proud of the way they played,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his squad. “We were really shaking in the first quarter, like almost too much respect in a sense, and looked a little hesitant and that sort of thing. And then they got it back together and, you know, played well through about halfway through the third quarter. And then, [Jamal] Murray took over, Jokić took over, which is not surprising. But the effort throughout the game was exactly what I’m looking for.”

The Spurs rally in the second quarter cut the deficit to nine at halftime. The team came out of the break with the same fire they had entering it, pulling the game within four before the Nuggets called a timeout with 1:23 left in the third. The older, wiser and better team in Denver regained control in the fourth to put an end to any San Antonio comeback.

Jeremy Sochan led the Silver and Black with 19 points, while Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell each followed with 17. The key number for the Spurs, though, was the 17 turnovers leading to 27 points for Denver. 

Despite the loss, the Spurs felt comfortable in their home away from home. 

The team managed to sell out the crowd, piling up 16,223 fans in the Moody Center, the largest for a sporting event in the arena’s short history. 

The Spurs will get another opportunity to play in Austin for the second game of the I-35 Series against the Brooklyn Nets at 6 p.m. Friday.

“It’s great. [The fans] enjoy it,” Popovich said. “They’re cheering from beginning to end for both teams. They just love watching it and it’s a great environment to play in. They’re excited and they made it a lot of fun.”

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawhorn
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.

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