AUSTIN — The San Antonio Spurs welcomed the defending champion and conference-leading Denver Nuggets to their home away from home in Austin on Friday night, but the Moody Center didn’t provide the same spark the Frost Bank Center has during upset wins earlier this season.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic scored a game-high 31 points and Denver (47-20) used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from the Spurs (14-53) in a 117-106 win.

“The good thing about playing the Nuggets – and we get to play them two more times – is you get to play against a championship team, and you see what it takes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game.

tre jones nuggets Spurs rookie star Victor Wembanyama was hounded by the Denver defense throughout the night and struggled with his shot before finishing with 17 points on 4 of 12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and three blocks.

The Spurs got a game-high 19 points from Jeremy Sochan while Devin Vassell (17 points), Zach Collins (13 points) and Julian Champagnie (10 points) also had double-digit scoring efforts.

Along with his 31 points on 13 of 19 shooting, Jokic added seven rebounds and five assists. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray had 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while Michael Porter Jr. (13 points, seven rebounds), Christian Braun (13 points) and Justin Holiday (13 points) had solid scoring nights as well.

San Antonio trailed by as many as 21 in the first half, but rallied headed into halftime and cut the deficit to as little as six to begin the third quarter. Both teams went punch-for-punch in the third, but the Spurs were unable to retake the lead after pulling within four.

“We were really shaky in the first quarter, like almost too much respect in a sense,” Popovich said. “Then they got it back together … the effort throughout the game was exactly what I’m looking for.”

With sights set on an upset win in the final frame, the Spurs instead fell victim to a steady dose of Murray and Braun to begin the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets eased past San Antonio for what quickly became a convincing win.

The Spurs will stay in Austin before taking on the Brooklyn Nets at the Moody Center on Sunday.