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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to finish off perfect road trip against the San Antonio Spurs

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Let’s go 5 and 0

1995 NBA Playoffs: First Round - Game One: Denver Nuggets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Noren Trotman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are streaking. Even more impressively, they are streaking on the road. The Nuggets have now won five straight games and six of their last seven, including capturing all four games so far on their five game road trip. That trip ends tonight in San Antonio against a Spurs team that once again remains competitive despite many thinking they were going to fall off.

The Spurs are still a veteran team with a hall of fame coach and that formula continues to work for them. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan may not bring the same type of attention as they once did, but they are effective and bolstered by young talent such as DeJounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV. Meanwhile their bench is also littered with solid vets, guys like Patty Mills and Rudy Gay. Put it all together and its thus far turned into a lead in the Southwest Division and a fifth seed in the standings. Denver will need to be careful to not overlook this team like so many pundits have.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (11-7) at San Antonio Spurs (10-8)

When: 6:30 PM MST

Where: AT&T Center. San Antonio, TX

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy...unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. Altitude TV where available, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Tell AT&T Center security you are the ghost of Davey Crockett looking for revenge against Santa Anna. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Pounding The Rock

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Monte Morris Malcolm Brogdon Pacers
SG Jamal Murray Justin Holiday Nuggets
SF Will Barton Doug McDermott Even
PF Michael Porter Jr. Domantas Sabonis Pacers
C Nikola Jokic Myles turner Nuggets
Bench P.J. Dozier, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Hartenstein, Vlatko Cancar T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday Pacers

Player availability: P.J. Dozier - out (hamstring), Greg Whittington - out (knee); Derrick White - out (toe), Luka Samanic - out (G-League).

Three things to watch for

Key matchup: Will Barton vs Demar Derozan

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets - Game Seven Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

DeRozan is San Antonio’s leading scorer and is a well known mid-range assassin. Barton meanwhile is coming off perhaps his best game in what has been an otherwise forgettable start to the season. The Spurs still aren’t a team that is going to light it up on a regular basis, but they’re not exactly the grind it out team of yesteryear either. If Barton can make Derozan work, or perhaps just make him have a bad game entirely, and give the Nuggets something on offense then this game has a good chance of going the Nuggets way. San Antonio uses a team approach, so an off night from their leading scorer doesn’t guarantee a win, but it certainly helps.

Key point: give Mike the ball even more

I’m not one of the people clamoring for Michael Porter Jr. to be pushed back into the starting lineup ASAP. I like the way he can carry the bench while Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic get a rest in the first half, and I like sticking with him over Paul Millsap or Barton to close out games. The biggest key for me when it comes to Mike is give him the damn ball. I still get baffled during that first bench shift when somehow MPJ doesn’t see the ball for three possessions in a row. Monte Morris and JaMychal Green are outstanding bench players, Facundo Campazzo is liable to pull some wizardry at any moment, but Mike is the motor behind that unit and often behind a lot of units that include starters as well. Feed him, let him eat and win basketball games, simple as that.

Opening thought: don’t sleep

There have been no easy opponents on this road trip but it can be easy to overlook San Antonio. No, there’s no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobli anymore but like I said, this team just keeps on keeping on. It would be very easy to come into the game tonight complacent, even with a loss a 4-1 road trip is still a heck of a result. The Nuggets have to take the big picture though. They squandered games early in the season and they are now making them up. San Antonio is not a better team than them and despite the fact that the Nuggets are at the end of a long trip it’s not an excuse to just let this one go. Denver needs to be on point tonight.