The Denver Nuggets (6-3) are back in action tonight as they look to stretch their winning streak to three while heading East for this four-game road trip. After knocking off the San Antonio Spurs (5-5) at home on Saturday, they’re heading down South to meet the Spurs on their own court in a battle between two teams trying to figure out their directions this season.
The Nuggets see themselves as contenders, as they should with all the talent the top of the roster has. However, they’ve struggled to put teams away early in the year, and they’re already dealing with a rash of nagging injuries, which isn’t great for a team that has been shorthanded each of the last two seasons. Regardless of those bumps and bruises, they have started the season 6-3.
For the Spurs, they came into the year expecting to be in contention for one of the top picks in the draft. Instead, they’re currently ninth in the Western conference, and they would be in the play-in tournament if the season ended today. They’re focused on developing the young talent on the roster, but, under Gregg Popovich, they were never going to just roll over and die.
Who: Denver Nuggets (6-3, 2-3 away) @ San Antonio Spurs (5-5, 2-3 home)
When: 7:30 p.m. MST
Where: AT&T Center
How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in San Antonio. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Pounding the Rock
Expected Starting Lineups:
SAS: PG Tre Jones, SG Devin Vassell, SF Keldon Johnson, PF Jeremy Sochan, C Jakob Poeltl
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg), Jeff Green (finger), Ish Smith (calf), Zeke Nnaji (ankle), Jordan Hall (foot), Zach Collins (leg), Romeo Langford (toe), Blake Wesley (knee)
Three Things to Watch
Run Them Off of the Arc
Historically, the Spurs have never been a big outside shooting team, but things have changed a little bit on that front. They currently rank in the top 10 in 3-point makes, attempts and percentage. In the loss to Denver on Saturday, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell were a combined 8-of-13 from behind the arc while the rest of the roster was 4-of-17. Teams have shot well against Denver this year, so keeping them off the arc can slow that barrage down.
Get in Passing Lanes
Through 10 games, the Spurs rank 1st in the NBA in assists per game. They’re averaging 29.8 assists per 41.8 field goals each night. When they’re scoring, they’re doing so by setting up their teammates, and that means there are passing lanes that teams should be looking to take advantage of. Denver is 22nd in steals per game, but the Spurs are averaging the fourth-most turnovers per game. Turning turnovers into points is a great way to quiet a crowd on the road.
Keep the Ball Moving
Denver won on Saturday by doing a couple of things. One was shooting 15-of-29 from 3-point range, with Bones Hyland leading the way at 6-of-8 from outside. The other was the amount of ball movement we were seeing. Three players, Bones, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic all had seven or more assists, and I couldn’t tell you the last time a Denver team accomplished that. One thing I can tell you is Denver is averaging 30.7 assists per game in their wins compared to 24.3 assists per game in their losses. Ball movement is leading to wins early on.