Nuggets vs. Spurs preview: Tim Duncan, Spurs put 14-game winning streak on line against short-handed Nuggets

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets will take another swing at a Western Conference heavyweight in their latest road battle, this time against the predictably excellent San Antonio Spurs.

Game 72: 2013-14 NBA Season
@ <a class='sbn-auto-link' href=
32-39 (13-23 away)
Series 0-1
54-16 (27-8 home)
March 26th, 2014
AT&T Center - San Antonio, TX
6:30 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Ty Lawson PG Tony Parker
Randy Foye
SG Danny Green
Wilson Chandler SF Kawhi Leonard
Kenneth Faried PF Tim Duncan
Timofey Mozgov C Tiago Splitter
Notes
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Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg fracture), Nate Robinson (ACL sprain), JJ Hickson (ACL), Jan Vesely (rib) are out. Injuries Matt Bonner (calf) is out until early April

The last time the Nuggets beat the Spurs, which was last April, they set a record for most wins in franchise history with 54. They would go on to win 57 total games.

Stat

The Spurs' current 14-game winning streak is the longest of the Tim Duncan era.

It's been a long time since the Denver Nuggets saw the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, it was all the way back on November 5th, in the third game of head coach Brian Shaw's career, that the Spurs and Nuggets faced each other for the only time so far this season. Denver led most of the way in that game before finally succumbing 102-94. Now the Nuggets are about to get all the Spurs action they can handle as they get set for the first game of a home-and-home series with the best team (record-wise) in the NBA.

While the Nuggets are going to see their ten-year playoff streak come to a close this season, San Antonio recently clinched its 17th straight postseason appearance. Their consistency in the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era has been nothing short of amazing, as the team has won four championships in that span while simultaneously seeming to defy Father Time at every turn.

Seriously, how many times have you heard before the beginning of a season that the Spurs were done for, that they were too old, that their time had passed? And every single time they are at or near the top of the standings by the end of the season. They were one crazy Ray Allen shot away from clinching their fifth championship last year. There is no doubt they are the best-run organization in the NBA. Popovich is sort of like the NBA's version of Bill Belichick; he gets people to buy in to the program, which is often the hardest part of coaching.

Like Belichick, Pop is a no-nonsense type of guy whose gruff mid-game interviews have become the stuff of legend. Also, like Belichick, Pop owes much of his success to being able to coach a Hall of Fame player most of his career. Tim Duncan just keeps getting it done, averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds this season while providing the same steady defense and leadership the Spurs have grown accustomed to.

Meanwhile, other Spurs have stepped up as well. Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in the league, Kawhi Leonard is a talented young small forward, Danny Green is a top-notch sharpshooter, and Manu Ginobili has played much better after a couple of injury-plagued seasons. All of it has led San Antonio to the top of the league, not exactly unfamiliar territory for them.

I used to really dislike the Spurs, mostly because of the couple of times they beat the Nuggets in the playoffs. I still remember the series in 2007 where Duncan played two playoff games in Denver without committing a foul, somehow. Now I can't help but admire and respect them. They are proof-positive that small market teams can compete for championships in the NBA. Yes, it takes a once-in-a-generation player, a savvy coach and smart management, but it can be done.

This will be another difficult test for Denver after getting pasted in Oklahoma City. Unlike OKC however, the Nuggets have not played well against the Spurs as of late. They have lost five of the last six in San Antonio, and 10 of the last 14 in the series overall. If Wilson Chandler can give it a go, it would boost an offense that struggled in the second half against the Thunder. If he can't, it will take a Herculean effort from Ty Lawson along with a big scoring night from someone else to pull this one off. The last time the Nuggets faced a team on a long winning streak, they played a complete game against the Los Angeles Clippers and ended their run. That game was at home; we'll see if they can duplicate that feat on the road.

Game Predictions -

- The Nuggets allowed the Thunder to shoot 50% from three-point range last game. Denver's three-point defense has actually improved quite a bit this season, so it was surprising to see that regression. Right now, Denver ranks seventh in defensive three-point percentage, allowing opponents to hit 35% of their attempts from deep. San Antonio is the league's top-ranked three-point shooting team, shooting the three at basically a 40% clip. I think Denver battens down the hatches a bit and keeps the Spurs three-point percentage below 35%.

- I wouldn't be upset to see Quincy Miller in the starting lineup again if Chandler is unable to play. I thought he looked okay against the Thunder. Obviously it's usually going to be a rough night when you have to guard Kevin Durant, but Miller's offense looked decent enough. If he gets the start again, I think he'll at least match Kawhi Leonard's scoring output.

- It was nice to see all five starters for Denver get into double figures the last game, even if it was in an ultimately futile effort. I think three of the five will do it tonight: Lawson, Randy Foye, and Kenneth Faried. If Miller starts, he'll be up there also.

- As much as I want to predict a Nuggets victory, I just don't think it's in the cards. The Spurs are playing too well and the Nuggets are short-handed on the road. I think the Spurs will win this one 112-104, unfortunately.

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