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Preview: Denver Nuggets take on San Antonio Spurs in winner take all game 7

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All beginnings must come to an end, whose comes tonight?

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

The greatest thing in sports: Game 7. For the Denver Nuggets, it’ll be their first game 7 since 2012 and just their third in franchise NBA history (though there are some first round game 5s sprinkled in there that were effectively the same thing when the NBA played 5 game first round series). For the veteran San Antonio Spurs, many of them have been here before. Experience goes in the favor of San Antonio, but the home court advantage goes to Denver.

The talent advantage still goes to Denver as well. Despite what some of our colleagues in their ivory towers in DC think, this is not a team that can be boiled down to one first time all star and a bunch of role players. This is a team led by a generational talent, surrounded by young potential stars and this series is not any indication on their ability to succeed in the future (they’re going to dominate the NBA for a long time) but in fact a validation of it. Despite the majority of the rotation being under the age of 25, despite all players except Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee playing what is their first meaningful minutes in the playoffs, this team has taken a veteran franchise coached by arguably the GOAT coach to the brink. The only way they’ve done that is because of their advantage in overall talent. Will it be enough tonight?

The Basics

Who: San Antonio Spurs (3-3) at Denver Nuggets (3-3)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

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

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)

Players trying to injure players: Jakob Poetl - probable (dirty screen)

Key Matchup: Jamal Murray vs Himself

This is Jamal Murray’s moment. This is what he has been training his whole life for. It’s why he put in the extra hours in the snow, why he trained his mind to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. It doesn’t matter if it’s Derrick White or Bryn Forbes across from him, he must deliver. This series has shown very clearly, the Nuggets will go as Jamal goes, he has to be special for them to advance. He has to take all of that in, and simultaneously not let any of it effect him. Murray flat out can not get into his head tonight if things start off poorly (that goes for all the Nuggets). He is better than White. Say it again. He. Is. Better. Than. White. Jamal needs to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about that tonight.

Key thing to watch for: who’s coming with Nikola

Nikola Jokic is the best center in basketball. He’s every bit the scorer and rebounder that Joel Embiid is, a far superior passer and this playoff series has shown the defensive end is a lot closer than all those people out on the east coast or in ivory towers who watch two Nuggets games a year believed. He can not do it alone though. He needs Murray to step up but he also needs someone else as well, whether that’s Gary Harris or Paul Millsap or Torrey Craig or whoever. Nikola has been the one constant this series, he’s destroyed San Antonio night in and night out with a plethora of moves. He’s averaging 23.5 pts, 11.7 rebs and 9 asts a game, but as we saw in game 6 when he blew up for 43, 12 and 9 in a loss, he needs help. Who will step up? Who will become a part of Nuggets lore Like J.R. Smith dropping 24 on the Los Angeles Lakers in game 4 in 09’ or Javale McGee putting up 21 and 14 on the Lakers in game 5 in 12’? Who will be the Robert Pack from game 5 against the Seattle Super Sonics in 94’? We’re fixing to find out.

Opening thought: Win or lose, this team is here to stay

Let me put this out there right now. If you think the Nuggets losing tonight in any way diminishes their future, or somehow represents a truer narrative that they are in fact not a team to be reckoned with in the future, well, you’re wrong. At most losing tonight represents that this team overachieved in the regular season. However, what it actually most likely represents is that this was the first playoff series for a team built by players 25 and under. The fact that they took the Spurs to game 7 alone shows they are not going to be a “regular season team.” If this team was a fraud then when they lost game 1 in Denver and were then down by 19, twice, in game 2 they would have folded. They won. When they fell behind eleven points in game 4, after trailing 2-1 in the series and not being able to beat the Spurs on their homecourt in 14 tries, if they had been frauds they would have folded. They won. They are not frauds...and they will not lose this game either.

Hear me now Nuggets Nation. This is not George Karl and Carmelo Anthony bumbling along in the first round, this is not a woefully outmatched and soon to be dismantled core of LaPhonso Ellis, Dikembe Mutombo and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. This is not the run and gun Doug Moe Nuggets who couldn’t defend a lick and inevitably ran into a buzzsaw of execution. This is not Nugglife. Not today, not this time. This isn’t even the 2017-2018 Nuggets who struggled anytime the pressure was put on them. Like Alex English has been saying on Altitude Promos for a year, this is a new era of Nuggets basketball. This team has had their back against the wall time and again this season and overcame it all. Tonight will not be different. Tonight will be the next step in burying the term NuggLife. This is our team, this is our era and we do not fold. We didn’t fold when our starting small forward got injured in game 2 of the regular season. We didn’t fold when our starting shooting guard and power forward joined him on the injury list in December. We didn’t fold when the Houston Rockets made their run at us, we didn’t fold when the Portland Trail Blazers challenged for the division title (unless we wanted to). We didn’t fold in game 2, we didn’t fold in game 4, and we will not fold now. Nuggets in a rout.