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Preview: Denver Nuggets face San Antonio Spurs with their backs against the wall in game 4

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Oi...game 4

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again...

It’s desperation time for the Denver Nuggets. After dropping games one and three to the San Antonio Spurs the Nuggets now face the ominous task of winning in San Antonio, or fall behind 3-1 in the series. It’s technically not a must win...but it’s a must win. If Denver loses they will have to become just the twelfth team in NBA history to recover from a 3-1 series deficit. Best not to tempt fate and get it done this afternoon.

That won’t be an easy task for Nikola Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets though. Jamal Murray was exposed in game three for his poor defense, particularly on Derrick White. Will Barton continues to struggle immensely shooting the ball and DeMar DeRozan is playing like a man possessed. The Nuggets simply needed to shoot the ball better after games one and two, but after game three it was clear they needed to make adjustments. Now they’ll have to install those on the fly, or face an incredibly difficult task.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-2) at San Antonio Spurs (2-1)

When: 3:30 PM MDT

Where: AT&T Center. San Antonio, TX.

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

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: Derrick White vs Jamal Murray

No doubt this is the matchup the Nuggets have to improve on. White had an absolute monster game three, including a 26 point first half, but its not like that’s coming out of nowhere. He’s scored 16 or more every single game in the series and is shooting over 63% from the floor, absurd numbers for anyone but incredibly absurd for a point guard. The reason for his success has a lot to do with Murray’s inability to stay in front of White on the drive, something he must improve for the Nuggets to have a chance. Murray also needs to improve his own shooting which currently stands at 39.1% from the field in the series.

Key thing to watch for: lineup changes

Everyone is hinting the Nuggets will make a change to the starting lineup in this game and everyone has to assume that its going to be Barton who will be moved to the bench. Barton has of course struggled mightily but also has shown to be extremely effective in a sixth man role. Hopefully the move will jump start his play. Who replaces him in the starting lineup is a matter of debate. Malik Beasley has certainly earned it but my hunch is it will be Torrey Craig. Craig has shot the ball well enough the past two months to make defenses have to respect him from outside and having him out there gives Denver two perimeter defenders in Craig and Gary Harris to combat White and DeRozan.

Opening thought: please, I beg you, not again

I’ve really tried to stay away from even mentioning Nugglife down the stretch of this season. This team has felt different, even from the team they were just a year ago. Time and again this year when the Nuggets have had their backs against the wall they responded. If ever there was a team to beat the stigma it’s this one, but man, game 4s are hard. Too many bad memories of bitter disappointment come to Nuggets fans in game 4s. Trailing the Los Angeles Clippers by 11 at half time in 2006, falling apart in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz in 2010, blowing it after fighting back against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011, watching Stephen Curry put up 31 in 2013...it’s all bad. Seven straight losses in first round series trailing 2-1, you have to go back to the magical ‘94 team for the last time the Nuggets won a game 4 when they came into it trailing. Break the cycle Nuggets, we’re begging you.