The San Antonio Spurs played last night against the Golden State Warriors which means many of their big name players will get the night off in Denver against the Nuggets as the rest up with the playoffs looming. The Nuggets meanwhile are wrapping up another season that will end without a playoff berth, the third straight year they have met that result. They are best served at this point to lose out the season in hopes that the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks will pass them in the standings, thus increasing the Nuggets lottery odds.
Though the year will end without any postseason play for Denver, there have been many successes. Most notably, the team seems to genuinely enjoy one another as well as their head coach, which is a big departure from the Brian Shaw regime. Emmanuel Mudiay has had an up and down season but its been more up than down lately. He's decreased his turnovers, shot better, finished at the rim better and scored at higher rate in March than any other time this season. Gary Harris made a big leap in production from his rookie year to this year and Nikola Jokic was the surprise of the year, progressing his game far quicker than anyone imagined.
Despite the successes, the team has faltered down the stretch (which, as I said, is to their benefit in the long run). They come into tonight on a three game losing streak, two of which losses (the Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans) came against teams destined for the draft lottery themselves. Perhaps more troubling than the losses is the way Denver has lost. Against the Kings they controlled for 36 minutes before going lifeless in the final quarter. Against the Thunder they seemingly didn't even bother to show up. Part of creating a positive culture change is finishing the job and the Nuggets organization as a whole needs to focus on that in these final remaining games.
Who: San Antonio Spurs (65-13) at Denver Nuggets (32-47)
When: 7;00PM MDT
Where: The Can, Denver CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and the brand spanking newly launched today KKSE AM 950!!
Rival blog: Pounding the Rock
|San Antonio Spurs||Denver Nuggets
|PG||Patty Mills||Emmanuel Mudiay||Even|
|SG||Danny Green||Gary Harris||Spurs|
|SF||Kawhi Leonard||Jakarr Sampson||Spurs|
|PF||David West||Kenneth Faried||Even|
|C||Boban Marjanovic||Nikola Jokic||Nuggets|
Will Barton, D.J. Augustin, Axel Toupane, Darrell Arthur, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Jusuf Nurkic,Jameer Nelson
Injured players: Darrell Arthur - questionable (knee), Danilo Gallinari - out (ankle), Wilson Chandler - out (hip), Boris Diaw - out (thigh), LaMarcus Aldridge - doubtful (finger), Tim Duncan - out (rest), Tony Parker - out (rest), Manu Ginobili - out (rest)
Key match up: Danny Green vs Gary Harris
Green may be one of the few regular starters the Spurs actually play tonight. A prime example of the Spurs system and its successes, Green was once a D-league guy who has flourished under Greg Popovich's tutelage and become an excellent two guard. He's a deadly three point shooter (though he's been struggling with that this year) and an excellent defender, currently recording a 3.0 DBPM. In fact, Green is really everything that Harris should be aiming to be, a plus 40% three point shooter who can lock down scoring wings on defense. For tonight, Harris will need to be able to keep Green in check. With so many Spurs likely resting, their two guard will have to carry an additional scoring burden
Key thing to watch for: Who the heck is playing for the Spurs
The players listed in the injuries as out for rest is my best guess at what happens tonight, but with Popovich who knows. He could show up with the five guys at the end of the bench and no one else and I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. The Spurs are locked in as the #2 seed in the West and the only possible thing left for them to play for in the regular season is spoiling the Warriors shot at a 73 win season so not much motivation to risk any injuries tonight. Couple that with the fact they are on a back to back in Denver after playing a late night national TV game in California and it seems unlikely they'll care much about winning tonight's contest. This is of course counter productive to the Nuggets losing as much as possible to close out the year, but they found a way to lose to the Pelicans so anything is possible.
Opening thought: This thing could be ugly
The Spurs looked less than crisp at times last night in Oakland, now they are tired and with half a roster going up against a team that is starting to look checked out. Tonight's game is not likely to be highlighted by execution and fundamentals. If the situation is the same except the game is being played mid-January than the Nuggets probably win this thing running away, but being that it's early April, I don't put it past them to give a half-hearted effort and lose to a roster made up of back ups (much like they did against New Orleans). Personally, I'm torn. I know that their odds can increase slightly in the lottery by piling up the losses but the pessimistic nature of being a Nuggets fan when it comes to the lottery makes me feel like increasing their odds won't matter much anyway. I think I'll be rooting for a win and I'm going to guess they get it done, Nuggets take it 94-88.