They brought in a total of 58 wins and 24 losses, losing only 7 in front of the home crowd at Pepsi Center. To say they delivered this season is a significant understatement, and for the first time since 2013, our guys head into the post-season riding high.
Denver will take on the 7th seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round, and this could prove a tough match-up for them. Of the 3 teams lingering toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings (Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers), the Spurs are the team I was most concerned about for Denver. San Antonio can be a wildcard, and they seem to be gelling at just the right time in the season after exchanging Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan last summer.
Alas, the Nuggets take on the Spurs in game 1 of the first round TONIGHT, and since this week officially marks the transition into post-season, I’m changing up the format of my update. This week, I want to talk about the things I’m considering for the Nuggets heading into the playoffs.
Let’s jump in.
Youthful hunger vs proven experience
Playing their best, the Nuggets can absolutely beat the Spurs without question. Put simply, they’re a better team, and the 2018-2019 Spurs are a far cry from what they once were when Tim Duncan graced their roster.
However, that doesn’t mean the Spurs can be counted out. Denver and San Antonio each won two games over each other this season, and historically the Nuggets haven’t fared well playing on the road in San Antonio. To top it off, Coach Gregg Popovich has loads more experience than Coach Mike Malone when it comes to the post-season as Pop enters his 22nd straight year with a playoffs appearance.
We all know that the playoffs bring an entirely different game of basketball, so while the Nuggets are preparing the best way they know how using the knowledge of playoff veterans Paul Millsap and Isaiah Thomas, they wont’t entirely know what they’re getting themselves into until they arrive.
Meanwhile, Coach Pop is likely taking his players through the tried and true playoff prep that has brought him many championships over the years. He doesn’t have Duncan by his side any longer, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take the remaining Spurs staples and make them champions once again.
Jokic vs Spurs defense
The Nuggets will need every player playing their best in this first round, but none more so than Nikola Jokic. It’s no longer any secret that the key to the Nuggets’ free-flowing offense is Jokic positioned as facilitator, and against the Spurs this could prove to be a strategic fight every single game.
The Spurs are known for being vicious on defensive strategy, and they’re accustomed to switching things up on a moment’s notice to keep their opponents’ offense on edge. Sure, San Antonio isn’t attempting a ton of threes like the Warriors, but they can be sneaky on defense and I wouldn’t put it past them to come up with a solid strategy to limit Jokic’s effectiveness.
The good news is that Jokic averaged 8.5 assists against the Spurs during the regular season combined with 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. Outsiders may not know this, but Nuggets fans know that when Jokic pulls in fewer points and more assists Denver usually get the W.
Hopefully the Nuggets can work up an effective offensive strategy to keep Jokic active on facilitation for the entire series.
34-7 vs 32-9
While the Nuggets won more games than the Spurs overall this season (remember they lost just 7 games at home), the Spurs also took care of business at home losing only 9 in San Antonio. Although the Nuggets happened to deliver the Spurs one of those home losses, they’ve historically struggled mightily with winning games in San Antonio.
So heading into Saturday’s game, the Nuggets need to focus on getting wins at home. Fortunately, their playoff position has given them home court advantage so they’ll need to work to take care of business in Denver for the first two games before heading out on the road. If they can grab the first two wins, and sneak in one win in San Antonio they may be able to get out of the series in 5 games. That might be a little aggressive, but what better time is there to set lofty goals than heading into the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 5 years?
Tip off is at 8:30pm MST on Saturday night as our Nuggets take the prime time position for the evening.
Our boys are all grown up Nuggets fans. I look forward to seeing what they can do!