Welcome back from the All-Star break, everybody! So much has changed, but somehow, things are still the same.
The Spurs last game was at Pepsi Center, and they lost to the Nuggets, with Jokic picking up a triple-double and helping run his team to a 117-109 victory. The Spurs kept things close for a while, but, they’re an old, injured team, and the Nuggets are young, and not quite as injured.
The Nuggets should be getting one of their prize offseason acquisitions back - Mason Plumlee! - but the Spurs should have LaMarcus Aldridge back as well. Paul Millsap is still on the shelf, and Kawhi Leonard could miss the remainder of the season.
This is a big moment for the Nuggets. The Spurs have dominated them in the past, but it’s a new day, and an opportunity for the Nuggets to wipe the slate clean by beginning their own stretch of winning over their former ABA opponent. Beating the Spurs and Gregg Popovich requires the 5 D’s of basketball - discipline, defense, dimes, daggers, and discipline. The Nuggets will need all five of them in order to win again and even out the season series.
Who: San Antonio Spurs (35-24, 13-18 away) at Denver Nuggets (30-26, 22-7 home)
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
How to watch/listen: Altitude and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950
Rival blog: Pounding the Rock
Injury report: Kawhi Leonard (out - hip), Paul Millsap (out - wrist), Tyler Lydon (out - knee), Will Barton (questionable - illness)
Can someone guard LaMarcus Aldridge? Love him or hate him for his style of play, but he’s the only player in this game that was an All-Star this season. He is a dangerous offensive player, and the Nuggets will have to scheme to help contain him in the pick and roll and on post ups. Jokic certainly is going to struggle, so hopefully Mason Plumlee can help keep him under 30 points.
Will Jokic-ball endure with Plumlee back? There were positive signs that the offense was finding out how to be a top-3 offense again with Plumlee as a starter, but then he got hurt and missed time. The offense exploded back to the former post-December-15 glory, but the defense was as stiff as a Kleenex. With Plumlee, Malone has the temptation to call plays again and try to win defensive battles. In my opinion, this would be a tremendous mistake, but (BUT!) I’m not the head coach, and it’s his call. Hopefully the offense will continue to flow through Jokic, while Plumlee and Malone both resist the temptation to do too much. Give us reverse jams, Mason! Everyone loves dunks!
Murray on Murray. Murray is going to be guarding Murray for most of the night. Murray can be a threat to score going to the rim, but Murray is a threat scoring from the perimeter. If Murray can out-rebound Murray, and help get his team into transition, that could help put pressure on Murray, and force him into mistakes. If Murray can get the edge over Murray on both ends, that could be enough to help the Nuggets win.
Nuggets 118 - Spurs 103. Jokic-ball rules, denying its glory is like denying the power of the sun.