There are three teams poised to contend for the final, sacrificial playoff spot in the West, but the one with the most interesting collection of talent might be Denver. The 14-21 Nuggets have a fun group of 21-and-under guys, led by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, along with a handful of veterans that should in theory provide a baseline of consistency and leadership.
That hasn’t translated to as many wins as some people thought coming into the year. The team dealt with a logjam in the frontcourt in the first few months and was without its best perimeter defender, Gary Harris, until just recently. Throw in a lot of experimentation with the starting lineup and a little locker-room friction and you start to see why the Nuggets have somewhat underperformed this season.
That’s not to say this will be an easy win for San Antonio. Denver is solid on the boards, and they have the bigs to make life difficult for the Spurs in the paint. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler give the starting unit some much-needed spacing, and the Nuggets have the legs to excel in transition. The Spurs have been great at dictating pace against opponents, and that’ll be important again tonight.
San Antonio Spurs (28-7) at Denver Nuggets (14-21)
Jan. 5, 2016 | 8:00 CST
Watch: FSSW; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs injuries: none
Nuggets injuries: Kenneth Faried (back)
Jokic’s rising star
The Nuggets’ most intriguing prospect remains a little under the radar outside of NBA Twitter, where people geek out over the 21-year-old’s versatility and Marc Gasol-like potential. And with good reason:
Jokic is an exciting young player on a roster replete with them. Following a shakeup in the starting lineup, he’s now surrounded by better shooters and able to put his unique set of skills on display, and that’s a big step in the right direction for the franchise.
Los Angeles has its alluring nightlife; Charlotte has its sea bass, and Denver has its own built-in, homecourt advantage. The Nuggets haven’t played better at home than on the road this season, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect the way the Spurs play tonight, especially since their hosts play at the 6th-highest pace in the league.
Furthermore, it may affect who actually makes the trip up to Denver. As of now, there’s been no news of players staying behind, but that’s usually in play — especially for the old guys — when it comes to one-game road trips to places like the Mile-High City. We’ll see.
Vegas line: Spurs by 7.5.
Game prediction: Spurs by 9.
For the Nuggets fans perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
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