The Denver Nuggets are back at home in order to face the San Antonio Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back. It’s a bounce back game for the Nuggets after the Golden State Warriors defeated them 116-102 last night, essentially putting a nail in the coffin of their hopes for the top seed in the Western Conference. Now, their focus should be solely on maintaining the 2nd seed. Despite it being a back-to-back, there’s no excuses for the Nuggets, as the Spurs are also on a SEGABABA after playing the Atlanta Hawks in San Antonio Tuesday night. The Spurs defeated the Hawks, 117-111, and are still barely holding onto the 7th seed over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Nuggets will be seeking revenge for a 104-103 loss to the Spurs in the middle of their three-game losing streak at the beginning of last month. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 46 points in that game but weren’t able to overcome the dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Tonight, the Nuggets will try to even the season series, 2-2. The Spurs aren’t great on the road with a record of 14-24, but they will be searching for a win in order to move up on the Thunder to avoid the last seed in the conference. Considering that the Nuggets are two games behind the Warriors without the tiebreaker, it’s all but guaranteed than an 8th seed means a matchup with the Warriors in the first round, which the Spurs will definitely want to avoid.
Who: San Antonio Spurs (45-33) at Denver Nuggets (51-25)
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5 FM
Rival blog: Pounding the Rock
Denver: Michael Porter Jr.(out - back)
San Antonio: Dejounte Murray (out - ACL)
Key Matchup: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Nikola Jokic
LaMarcus Aldridge is one of those players that always seems to play well against the Nuggets. In the three previous matchups between these two teams, Aldridge has averaged 24.3 points a game. The Nuggets struggle at defending him from the field, especially with his mid-range jumpshot that he’s perfected. Jokic will definitely have his hands full on both sides of the court, but if he’s able to limit Aldridge and push him as far away from the basket as possible, that increases the Nuggets’ chances at winning this game drastically.
Key thing(s) to watch for: Potential Playoff preview
At this point in the season, nobody knows who’s going to play who in the first round of the playoffs. Still, the Nuggets should be looking at this game as a potential preview of their first round opponent. The Spurs currently sit in the 7th seed in the playoffs, tied with the Thunder. If they stay in this position and the Nuggets are able to hold onto the 2nd seed, these two teams could very well end up facing one another come playoff time.
It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets are able to handle the dangerous frontcourt of DeRozan and Aldridge. Who will match up with who? Will the Nuggets be effective on defense against a team in the top five in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage? How will Michael Malone do against one of the best NBA coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich? The Nuggets should be looking at this game as an opportunity to get an answer to some of these questions.
Opening thought: This is a must win
With three more home games to go and the Nuggets in danger of falling to the 3rd or 4th seed in the standings, every home game from this point on is a must-win. There’s a chance the Nuggets could be feeling hangover side effects after giving up their shot at the top seed, but there’s still a lot to gain (and lose) for the Nuggets. A win tonight would help them to fend off the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets who are 2 games and 1.5 games respectively behind them for the 2nd seed. The Nuggets worked too hard this season to lose positioning in the last two weeks of the season. They need to take care of business tonight to prevent that from happening.