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Preview: Denver Nuggets open up playoffs at home for game 1 against San Antonio Spurs

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...It’s time to dig IN

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

The playoffs are back! After six long years of looking forward to the lottery, the Denver Nuggets make their return to the playoffs tonight. In their way stands a formidable and familiar foe, the San Antonio Spurs. Of course, these aren’t the Spurs of the 2000s. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are enjoying retirement while Tony Parker wraps up his career in Charlotte. Coach Gregg Popovich still remains however, giving reason for every Nuggets fan to pause when considering this matchup.

Denver’s outstanding play throughout the season earned them the right to home court advantage in this series which should be useful given Denver’s league leading home record but the Spurs have an impressive home court advantage of their own. With talented and playoff experienced veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, along with a bevy of savvy veteran role players, the Spurs are in many ways the antithesis to the young Nuggets. As we know though, Denver won’t have much time to get their playoff legs under them, as early home losses are often what sinks a team’s chances in a series.

The Basics

Who: San Antonio Spurs (0-0) at Denver Nuggets (0-0)

When: 8:30 PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, ESPN, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival blog: Pounding the Rock

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Trail Blazers Advantage
Position Nuggets Trail Blazers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Damian Lillard Blazers
SG Gary Harris CJ McCollum Even
SF Torrey Craig Maurice Harkless Even
PF Paul Millsap Al-Farouq Aminu Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Enes Kanter Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Mason Plumlee Seth Curry, Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard Even

Injured players: Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Dejounte Murray - out (knee)

Key matchup: Will Barton vs DeMar DeRozan

The Spurs are led by Aldridge and DeRozan. While they certainly inherit a team concept overall and have a nice collection of very good role players, it’s Aldridge and DeRozan who will win this series for them if they pull it off. With Paul Millsap on Aldridge the big question will be how Will Barton does defending DeRozan. Will is obviously better known for his abilities on offense but he can be a stingy defender when motivated. This matchup will be something to watch all series. If it doesn’t work out for Barton will Coach Michael Malone shift Gary Harris onto DeRozan? Or will he even go as far as to re-insert Torrey Craig into the starting lineup? Everything will be on the table when it comes to slowing DeMar.

Key thing to watch for: cool heads

Obviously a lot has been made of the Nuggets experience (or lack thereof) in the playoffs. One would expect the most likely place that inexperience will manifest itself negatively will be in the first moments of the first game. I expect Denver to be on edge at the jump but they must maintain their cool. This especially goes for Nikola Jokic who we know can lose control over his emotions even when its at a detriment to the team. The Nuggets also need to not panic if things don’t go well right away. It’s a long game and an even longer series. If it takes them a quarter to find their playoff legs that’s fine. Just don’t wait until game three to find them.

Opening thought: welcome back

It’s been a long six years. The last time the Nuggets were in the playoffs the entire staff at Denver Stiffs was different...and we’ve essentially had a total of two staffs (staves?) our entire existence. The Golden State Warriors were the upstart young team with no playoff experience, not the championship juggernauts they are today and George Karl still coached the team. Suffice to say, it’s been a while, but... I. Can’t. Wait. Playoff basketball is unique and amazing, its by far the best display of the sport you’ll ever see. So for those who weren’t here six years ago get ready for one heck of a ride, and for those who have been here all along, welcome back.