NBA playoffs 2019: 'Hungry' Derrick White sparks Spurs win over Nuggets

Derrick White played like he had not eaten in two days, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after seeing his team undone by the unheralded Spurs point guard. 

San Antonio took a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against the second-seeded Nuggets with a 118-108 home victory Thursday. 

The Spurs were paced by White, who put up a career-high 36 points in just his third playoff start, and coach Gregg Popovich let that performance speak for itself rather than offering any great praise of their 2017 first-round pick. 

“He’s OK,” Popovich joked. “He was obviously spectacular. I don’t know what else to say.” 

Malone, meanwhile, had plenty of words about White, who was born in Colorado and played his college basketball in Boulder. 

He felt White’s performance was in part a response to Nuggets guard Jamal Murray’s fourth-quarter showing in Game 2, which saw him rack up 21 points in the final quarter of a Nuggets victory. 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Derrick White, the last couple of days, has been reminded about Jamal Murray’s fourth-quarter performance,” Malone said. “Derrick White came out like he hadn’t eaten in two days. 

“He came out hungry. He came out pissed off. And he sent a very loud and clear message. 

“Now I’m anxious to see our guys. How do we respond to that? Where is your pride? Where is your toughness? Where is your grit? So Game 4 is going to be great insight to who we are as a team, especially our young players, especially Jamal Murray. 

“Great fourth quarter, we win Game 2. Well, he’s going to learn as a young kid. It can’t be just one quarter, it has to be every night if you want to be a really good basketball player, especially in the playoffs. 

“It’s defense. Derrick White dominated the game tonight. Jamal, first and foremost, has to take a lot more pride in his ability to guard and contain and make Derrick White feel him. Derrick White did not feel us tonight.” 

The Spurs take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 Saturday in San Antonio.