When the majority of folks think of Tim Duncan they think of a future Hall of Fame power forward who could be considered one of the best to play the position. Me? I think of the constant whining and the two playoff series losses that Duncan and the Spurs earned against the Melo-Era Nuggets. With the Spurs struggling early ... perhaps there is finally a changing of the guard in order.
The particulars ...
San Antonio: 9-7 (8-3 at home, 1-4 on the road) (key wins: vs. Dallas, at Houston )
Denver: None to report.
San Antonio: None to report.
Opposition's Take: Pounding the Rock
Somewhat of a bitter start to this preview right? Well, while there are valid rumblings of a Nuggets vs. Lakers rivalry brewing ... I have never relished more in beating another team in the NBA than when the Nuggets can take out the Spurs. San Antonio has played the game the "right way" for years with solid defense, balanced offense and killer instinct at opportune moments. The Nuggets "style" lends itself more to a free flowing offense, a risk taking defense and some key hit-or-miss moments.
The styles of play couldn't be more opposite of one another as most basketball purists love the Spurs and despise what the Nuggets represent.
Before the start of the season the national media kept having to change their pants anytime anyone brought up the Spurs because they surely got a bit too overexcited at the prospect of Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess playing together. With star power like that to go along with role players George Hill, Matt Bonner, George Mason and underrated rookie DeJuan Blair the Spurs suddenly (on paper) were vaulted ahead of everyone out West, aside from the Lakers, to challenge for a spot in the Finals. But the key ... on paper. So far, the Spurs have underwhelmed because of injuries, injuries that should be expected with such a veteran squad.
Through just 16 games Manu Ginobili, 32 years-old, has missed 5 full games (only 7 minutes in another), Tony Parker, 27, has missed 4 full games (just 11 minutes in another) and Tim Duncan, 33, has missed 2 full games. Duncan has been pretty impressive in the 14 games he has played in averaging 18.4 points (21.4 career) and 11.1 rebounds (11.7 career) and is coming off being named the Western Conference Player of the Week.
Nuggets' fans can share the frustration of seeing a player on the decline as Chauncey Billups hasn't quite looked as good as he did last season and the same thing might be going on in San Antonio. The resurrection of Duncan thus far could be attributed to good health, but big men with the kind of miles that Duncan have are not long for playing well into their 30's at the same levels they once enjoyed.
I would have been much happier had the Nuggets been able to upset the Spurs in either the 2005 or 2007 playoffs, but Denver was not the better team then. The Nuggets can go a long way proving that they are the better team now by earning an impressive road win in Texas tonight. Things wont be easy as the Spurs have been playing much better at home (8-3) than they have on the road (1-4). The Spurs also have some young fresh legs in Hill and Blair that will act as rejuvenation machines for the veterans with their fiery play.
Make no doubt ... the Nuggets know this is a statement game. I expect the Spurs to be ready, coming off a home loss to the Boston Celtics Thursday night (Dec. 3).
If there is going to be a changing of the guard than what better time to start then now?
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Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Darren Abate