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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

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The Spurs have already faced some of the league's more exciting rookies, and tonight they get a look at another in the Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs Denver Nuggets

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
November 18, 2015, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW Radio: 1200 AM WOAI

One of the biggest surprises in the first week of the season was the thumping the Houston Rockets took in their home opener at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, an inexperienced and short-handed team whom they'd just relieved of their most productive player in Ty Lawson. With Denver now at 6-5 (and the Rockets still finding themselves at 4-7), that win seems to make a bit more sense.

The Nuggets have one of the toughest schedules to start the year and tonight, the second of a back-to-back (they played in New Orleans last night), is another big ask for a group leaning heavily on their seventh-overall pick, Emmanuel Mudiay.

To his credit, Mudiay has been a revelation for the Nuggets, taking to his featured role with aplomb. He's been positioned to sacrifice short-term efficiency (third in the league in TOs, 30% shooting from the field, 7.5 PER) for trial-by-fire experience and development. He's already spurred game-winning possessions on both ends of the floor, and his ability to create shots for teammates has been lauded by many.

The Spurs meanwhile continue to benefit from generous early scheduling. And it's not just the matchups against middling or lottery-bound teams: San Antonio is now in a stretch where six of their seven games are catching opponents on a SEGABABA (H/T John Schumann).

But you can't fault a team for the opponents they've faced (unless they're the Warriors, nyuck nyuck), and the Spurs continue to take care of business early. Five teams have been held to scoring in the 80s, and a lot of that has to do with team defense and the work in the paint. Teams are shooting worse (and less frequently) around the rim against the Spurs than almost any other team. Combine that with excellent team rebounding and transition D and San Antonio is simply limiting easy opportunities for opponents to score.

That last point is important in keeping a 19-year-old in check. Mudiay is obviously a talented player, but Pop will look to put him in as many low-percentage opportunities as possible, especially in any pick and roll involving Faried or Hickson. He'll have to beat the Spurs with his jumper early and often.

The aforementioned Nuggets frontcourt is likely to present plenty of opportunities for the Spurs. Faried and Hickson are both undersized and should be outmatched by San Antonio's starters. A nice bounce-back game or LaMarcus Aldridge wouldn't surprise me.

The Nuggets have the energy and talent to upset most teams on any given night. But San Antonio has been great at controlling pace against teams like that, and I think too many things would have to bounce right for Denver to steal this game in the AT&T Center.

Matchup to watch: Intrigue abounds. Kawhi Leonard against a born-again Danilo Gallinari will be great viewing, as will the battle in the paint between Duncan and Aldridge and the bouncy, offensively-inclined duo of Faried and Hickson. Then there's Mudiay, who might be especially aggressive if he sees Tony Parker for much of the night. This should be a fun one.

San Antonio Spurs (8-2)

Denver Nuggets (6-5)

November 18, 2015

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

7:30 PM CST

TV: FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Emmanuel Mudiay

Danny Green

SG

Gary Harris

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Danilo Gallinari

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Kenneth Faried

Tim Duncan

C

J.J. Hickson


Game prediction: Spurs by 15.

For the Nuggets fans' perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.