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Quick Primer: round one of the NBA playoffs between the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets

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A bullet-point look at the upcoming series

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After a six year absence, the Denver Nuggets will make their return to the NBA playoffs on Saturday as they play host to the San Antonio Spurs. Here is a very quick overview of the tale of the tape, with all of the basic information about the two teams as they head into the playoffs.

Regular season records

The Nuggets have earned the 2-seed in the Western Conference and will host the 7-seeded Spurs for games 1 and 2 before heading to San Antonio for games 3 and 4. Both teams have been great at home with the Nuggets sporting the league’s best home record in the regular season and the Spurs earning the 3rd best home record in the NBA. The Spurs have won 13 straight games against the Nuggets in San Antonio while the Nuggets have won 5 of the last 6 games in Denver.

Best matchup

Denver’s Nikola Jokic will enter the series as the best player on either team but that doesn’t mean he is a lock to be the best player in the series. The seven-foot Serbian “point-center” is one of the most unique players to enter the league over the last decade and has quickly risen the ranks of NBA superstardom. In February, Jokic earned his first all-star selection and has a great shot at being named to either the first or second all-NBA team.

His counterpart on the Spurs is LaMarcus Aldridge, a seven time all-star who was awarded second team all-NBA honors last season.

Both 7-foot players are very skilled. Jokic relies on an all-around offensive approach that features brilliant passing from every spot on the court. He’s an excellent scorer from the low post and has soft touch on floaters and jump hooks. Aldridge is a deadly mid-range shooter and has a high release that is nearly impossible to block. He is great at operating out of the low and mid post with either a face-up game or with his back to the basket.

Jokic and Aldridge will spend a fair amount of time guarding each other and the winner of that matchup will go a long way toward determining which team wins the series. Here is how those two players have fared against each other through four games this season:

X-Factors

Jamal Murray averaged 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6 assists in four games against the Spurs this season including a 31-point performance in a win in December. He had a negative plus-minus in just one of the four games, an 8-point loss in which he shot just 4-19 from the field and 1-8 from the three-point line.

Denver’s bench was also a big positive in the two wins against the Spurs as Malik Beasley and Monte Morris combined for 72 points across both games on 57% shooting and 47% from behind the arc. Overall, the Nuggets’ bench outscored the Spurs’ bench 162-132 in the four-game season series.

Head to Head

The two teams split the regular season matchup, 2-2, with neither team winning on the road.

Date: December 26th
Outcome: Spurs win, 111-103
Summary: The Nuggets were down three starters but got a career-performance from Juancho Hernangomez who scored 27 points to go along with 13 rebounds. The Spurs sent a quick double-team on Jokic who scored just four points on five field goal attempts in 31 minutes. Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan combined for 57 points. The Spurs out-rebounded the Nuggets 50-47, the only game of the four head-to-head matchups in which Denver was out-rebounded.

Date: December 28th
Outcome: Nuggets win, 102-99
Summary: The short-handed Nuggets got their revenge two nights later in Denver behind a bounce back, near triple-double performance from Jokic who had 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists on 10-14 shooting. The Denver bench outscored San Antonio’s 46-26.

Date: March 4th
Outcome: Spurs win, 104-103
Summary: Denver rallied in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Spurs 34-19 but fell one point short. Jamal Murray caught fire in the 4th quarter, scoring 14 of his 25 points over the final six minutes of the game including 4-5 from the three-point line. Isaiah Thomas played 16 minutes and shot 3-11 from the floor.

Date: April 3rd
Outcome: Nuggets win, 113-85
Summary: Gregg Popovich set an NBA record, getting ejected just 63 seconds into the game. The Nuggets dominated from the start, winning all four quarters. The Spurs struggled with their three-point shot, finishing just 5-27 from behind the arc. Jokic had another near triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists in 29 minutes of action.

Coaching Battle

Gregg Popovich is the most decorated head coach currently coaching in the NBA. Michael Malone is making his first appearance in the NBA playoffs. The experience gap couldn’t be any wider between those two and yet both guys seem to share a mutual admiration.

Advanced Stats

Rebounding will be a key battleground in the series. The Nuggets lead the NBA in second chance points but the Spurs are very good at cleaning the defensive glass. The Nuggets won both games against the Spurs this season when they held an advantage on the boards. One trait of the Spurs that spans the two decades that Popovich has been at the helm is that they won’t beat themselves with fouls and turnovers. Fortunately, the Nuggets aren’t overly reliant on getting to the line or generating steals.

via nba.com

Series odds, per the Action Network

Visit the Action Network or download the Action Network app for prop bets and gambling analysis.

  • Nuggets to win in 4: +1000
  • Nuggets to win in 5: +325
  • Nuggets to win in 6: +400
  • Nuggets to win in 7: +325
  • Spurs to win in 4: +2500
  • Spurs to win in 5: +1400
  • Spurs to win in 6: +500
  • Spurs to win in 7: +650