Game Preview # 17: Attack of the Moonmen (Nuggets @ Spurs)

Well, that was an ugly loss last night, huh? I realize a lot of folks might be a little down after that, but I was nothing but encouraged by how the Spurs managed to not only stay in the game, but fight back a nd put the result into question despite all the miscues and misses. The best team in the East should have been able to put us away with all the mistakes and missed shots... but they didn't. And the BAM unit once again showed its mettle in making the vaunted Boston bench look pretty silly.

Tonight, we get another game against a team that many consider a contender, but this team is almost the polar opposite of Boston. Denver's been playing some really good ball, despite that loss to Minnesota last weekend, but their strength comes in the form of the second most efficient offense in the league. Their defense is in the middle of the pack, but still improved over last season. Our defense is slightly better than theirs overall, and our offense slightly worse. But, the Moonmen have a bit of a cushion in their division race already, and don't need this game as badly as the Spurs do. So, expect the Spurs to come out swinging in this one.

In the past, the Spurs have had the Nuggets' number. In fact, a first-round series against Denver used to be a good indicator of a forthcoming Championship run. Then they traded for Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups. Nowadays, these two teams are somewhat more evenly matched in the starting units, which means the role players really have to step up. And this is where the Spurs might just have the edge.

As we all know by now, everyone's favorite rookie(even Hollinger's) has had 2 great games in a row. Against the Sixers, it would have been easy to chalk it up to their relative lack of size in the front court. But against the Celtics, it becomes a lot harder to dismiss an 18 point, 11 rebound performance in 22 minutes of time. Tonight, he'll go up against a guy who blocks a lot of shots, but is otherwise pretty tame. It's OK, because every time Dejuan gets blocked, he gets the rebound and goes back up until he scores. The Birdman hasn't seen anything like The Beast before, and I think it might already be in his head.

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OK, maybe I just wanted an excuse to post that chop again, but one couldn't blame Andersen if he really is scared of The Beast.

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Denver Nuggets @ San Antonio Spurs
Where: AT&T Center - San Antonio, TX
When: December 5, 2009, 7:30 PM Spurs time
Watch: NBA TV

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How They Stack Up
8-3 Home 9-1
1-4 Road 5-4
100.0
Offense 110.8
96.1 Defense 102.9
44.6 FG% 48.3
36.0 3-pt% 35.6
74.7 FT% 80.6
43.0 Rebounds 41.7
13.5 TOs 14.3
6-4 Last 10 7-3
Lost 1
Streak Won 2
3rd, Southwest Position 1st, Northwest

Country/Time Zone Game Time
Argentina 10:30 PM
West Coast
5:30 PM
Philippines 9:30 AM
Central Europe 2:30 AM
Palestine/Egypt 3:30 AM
East Coast 8:30 PM
CapHill's Minifridge 6:30 PM
Perth, AUS 9:30 AM
Tokyo, JP 10:30 AM
Sydney, AUS 11:30 AM

Spurs
(9-7)
Matchups

Nuggets
(14-5)

Tony Parker
Veteran

Point Guard

Here's a great positional matchup to pay attention to. Tony is a top 3 PG in the league, but Chauncey is top 5, so it's not like Tony's got an incredible advantage here. The Frenchman better bring his "A" game tonight, especially on the defensive end. Even more intriguing is the contest between the backups. Does George's length and athleticism win his matchup against Ty Lawson, or will the rookie's speed be too much for George to handle?

Advantage: Spurs


Chauncey Billups
Great Team Player

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Keith Bogans
Good Defender

Shooting Guard

Look, I love what Keith has brought to this team with his tenacity on the defensive end - I really do. But I'd be a fool not to give Afflalo the Advantage here. The man D's up as well as Keith, if not better, and he's a much more complete player on the offensive end. AA isn't going to win any 1-on-1 tournaments, but he's the definition of a great role player.

Advantage: Nuggets


Aaron Afflalo
Good All-Around Player

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Richard Jefferson
13 PPG

Small Forward

So, uhh... we're not going to win this matchup, unless RJ has a career game. Melo has been off the charts to begin the season, leading the league in scoring while reducing his turnovers and raising his FG% from the last 2 seasons. From the early returns, he's probably in the running for league MVP. His defense is still a bit suspect at times, but not so much that RJ is going to outperform him. I just hope RJ does a decent job of making Melo work for his points. He did a good job on Paul Pierce the other night, so we know it's possible.

Advantage: Nuggets


Carmelo Anthony
31 PPG

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Tim Duncan
As Good As Ever

Power Forward

Timmeh is playing the best basketball he's played in years, possibly due to the weight he lost over the summer. Martin has been crap since he left New Jersey. OK, so he's not total crap, but definitely not worth upwards of $15M a year. For that price, I'd rather have RJ. And as far as The Birdman vs. The Beast, I think we all know how that's going to go(see chop above).

Advantage: Spurs


Kenyon Martin
Hot Lips

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Antonio McDyess
Solid

Center

SAM has really stepped up his game lately. He has been playing great, physical defense and hitting the boards. Nene is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league. He's a monster in the paint, with a field goal percentage that's been consistently hanging around 60%, he cleans up the boards as well as Dice does, and his mere presence makes slashers think twice before they bring the ball into the lane. Just wait 'til next year, when we'll have a Brazilian center of our own.

Advantage: Nuggets


Nene
Better than Solid

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Manu Ginobili
The Spark

Bench & Role Players

Our bench's spark has been back for a couple of games now, but even before that our bench was statistically the best in the league, thanks to the BAM. Denver's bench is actually pretty good, but as long as someone is making sure JR Smith has no room to operate, the greatest threat will be neutralized. Our bench, on the other hand, has legitimate threats at every position.

Advantage: Spurs


JR Smith
Shameless Chucker

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Gregg Popovich
WWPD?

Coach

George Karl is a successful coach, there's no denying it. But he's never won the big one - one Michael Jordan made sure of that. Pop has been at the helm of the winningest franchise in any sport ever since he took the reins. Not as tough a call as you might think.

Advantage: Spurs


George Karl
CapHill's Favorite Coach
images via yahoo.com

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Other Factors

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Intangibles

Slopiness killed the Spurs in their last game. Denver is decidedly less sloppy lately.

Advantage: Nuggets

Mojo

Denver's won 2 in a row since the debacle against Minnesota, including a game on Thursday when they easily thrashed Miami.

Advantage: Nuggets

Winner: Spurs

The Spurs don't want to paint themselves into a corner again this early in the season, and I think they will bring the intensity tonight.
Prediction: Spurs win.

Keys To The Game

  • Points in the paint - The offseason addition of Afflalo has improved the Nuggets' perimeter D, so in order to have a chance, we'll have to do some real damage in the middle to open things up from the outside. Of course, with Nene patrolling the paint, this is easier said than done. But K-Mart is a weakness worth exploiting. Melo also takes some nights off on defense, so RJ might have some decent opportunities tonight.
  • Make some damn shots - The Spurs were terrible from behind the arc and at the free throw line on Thursday night. Just awful. Reversing that trend makes this a much easier game to win.
  • BAM - The bench must take no prisoners tonight. It's an all-out assault, and Manu needs to be part of it, too. If Manu gets something going on offense, things will really open up and the bench is going to put up insane numbers. The BAM is capable of great things, and they need to show it tonight.

Strength of Schedule

The Spurs have had one day off, as have the Nuggets. The Spurs will play at Utah on Monday to break the homestand they've been on lately.

Last Time They Met

When the Spurs and Nuggets last played, Pop drew a lot of fire from Spurs fans when he sat the big 3 and Mike Finley, and the remaining Spurs lost the game, despite giving the Nuggets all they could handle. It would come back to haunt us at the end of the year, when we finished with the same record as the Nuggets, but they held the tiebreaker for the #2 seed.

Some Other Reading

Nuggets

Denver Stiffs - SBN's Nuggets blog, where they're even talking about trading for Shaq. I guess they're not impressed with that 14-5 start to the season. It used to be called Pickaxe & Roll, but it must have changed sometime in the offseason.

Roundball Mining Company - The TrueHoop blog for the Nuggets. There's a pretty cool season-so-far analysis post over there, so check it out.

Spurs

48 Minutes of Hell: Best damn TrueHoop affiliate out there. Always a must visit Spurs site.
Project Spurs: Features live chats, call-in shows and podcasts (in Spanish too), with lots of content.

We're skipping the Twitter section today, since as of this writing no Spurs have tweeted since the Boston loss.

Where to Tune In

TV

This game will be aired nationwide by NBA TV. If you have cable or satellite, you'll have to look up your individual channel. This sucks for anyone like myself who doesn't have digital cable, because it's blacked out on League Pass Broadband. In San Antonio, it will be on KENS 5; in Denver, you can catch it on Altitude TV, whatever the hell that is.

Online

This game is not available online in the US. Perhaps in other countries, but those of us stateside are out of luck.

Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate. In fact, nobody can stop you from googling "atdhe". You can also shoot an email to dmenendez@gmail.com for more assistance.

NBA League Pass audio is still free this year, so check it out.

Radio

If you're in the San Antonio area and aren't near a TV, tune in to WOAI (1200 AM).

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