DENVER – Derrick White saw an opening, got up and threw a dunk with a thunderous hand all over Paul Millsap that rocked the Pepsi Center in the third quarter on Saturday.
But that was not the most important play of the night in San Antonio. Redeeming after a rotation he committed with just over a minute left in a tight game, White pushed the ball away from Jamal Murray with 2.1 seconds remaining to allow the San Antonio Spurs to take Game 1 of the Denver Nuggets 101-96 in his best time of seven first round series.
The Spurs, seventh seed, stole Game 1 on the road from the Nuggets, but it was White who stole the show. While growing up and playing his dance in high school not far from Denver before playing at the University of Colorado, White had such an impressive comeback that he left coach Gregg Popovich impressed. White made 7 of 10 shots and finished with 16 points and five badists in his first playoff start.
Responding to a total of four questions combined in his news conferences before and after the game, Popovich was effusive when asked about White's night.
"It's spectacular for someone who got in that position," said Popovich, who became the most winning head coach and beat Lenny Wilkens with 1,413 wins in the regular season and playoffs. "Learning that position with a group of new players is really remarkable when you've done what you've done, so I hope you continue to play that way because it's going to be a long series."
White, who has seized the opportunity as the starting point of the guard due to Dejounte Murray's pre-season ACL injury was a thorn in the side of the Nuggets. San Antonio led up to 12 points in the second quarter before the Nuggets made a run in the third. Denver reached 62-59, but then White rose from nowhere to throw a climax over Millsap with 6:14 left in the third to temporarily stop Denver's momentum.
"I was just pushing him and nobody stopped the ball so [I was] attack and try to make a play in the basket, "said White, who wanted to concentrate on the playoff game and, therefore, limited his friends and family to a total of 10 tickets for his return home. [saw] He on the edge, I just thought about trying it. That is practically everything. "
The Nuggets reduced a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to one two-fold, thanks in part to Nikola Jokic's triple-double of 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 badists. Jokic became the fourth player to record a triple-double in his first playoff game and the first since LeBron James did it in 2006, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
White spun the ball with 1:09 to play and the Nuggets fell by one, but Murray missed a triple and then an 18-foot open, and the Nuggets turned the ball twice, the last time White's steal against Murray came in. The defense zone when the guards of the Nuggets brought the ball to the court with the possibility of tying the score with a triple.
Murray, who scored 17 points but went 6-for-6 in the 3-point range when the Nuggets shot just 21.4 percent from beyond the goal, was so frustrated that he stayed long after the game on the court. Practice the Nuggets to receive shots of the places you lost during Game 1.
"I was just firing," said Murray. "I'm frustrated."
While Murray was shooting, White donned a retro warming shirt from the old school Spurs after spoiling the Nuggets' first playoff game since the 2012-13 season, when George Karl was his head coach.
When asked what he tasted most, whether it was the dunk or the theft, White replied that he would have made Popovich smile.
"The victory," said the second-year point guard. "By much the victory".