Wednesday night’s 111-103 win against the Nuggets was so fun that we’re going to run it back in Denver just two days later. In their first meeting, the Spurs were about as impressive as any team has been so far this season against the Western Conference-leading Nuggets. Like Dr. Dre in 89’, they found the formula and executed a defensive gameplan to limit the Nuggets star center, Nikola Jokic, to perfection.
In spite of losing three starters, the Nuggets have not only survived, but thrived this season due to the legitimate MVP-caliber play of Nikola Jokic. A grandmaster point guard trapped in a husky center’s body, it appears that Jokic has reluctantly taken on the role as the primary option in the Nuggets blitzing offense (not a bad decision considering his outstanding 52-36-82 career shooting splits).
So what did Pop cook up to slow down the already-slow Serbian? He threw the book at him (and I’m talking a heavy, War and Peace unabridged-size book). Every time Jokic would even sniff the ball past the free-throw line extended, you could be sure that a double or even triple team was already on the way. The Spurs defense goaded the center into doing what he’s preternaturally designed to do; that is, move the ball to the open man. To his credit, Jokic found his targets easily, finishing on the night with ten assists. The problem was, the Nuggets depleted support staff (save Juancho Hernangomez) were not up to the task and were clanking wide-open jumpers or failing to create their own looks throughout the night.
December 28th, 2018 | 8:00 CT
Watch: FSSW| Listen: WOAI
Denver Nuggets (21-11) vs. San Antonio Spurs (19-16)
San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray (torn right ACL), Pau Gasol (foot soreness).
Denver Nuggets: Isaiah Thomas (OUT), Paul Millsap (OUT), Gary Harris (OUT), Will Barton(OUT)
These guys are in the zone
It’s a crime that I’ve gone this entire preview without highlighting the increasingly impressive play of the Spurs resident stars, LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar DeRozan. Aldridge was in his bag early on Wednesday, as jumper after jumper was met with splash after splash. Whether it was Jokic or the more physical Mason Plumlee draped on him, he was undeterred, scoring his 27 points all in the first three periods. Not to be outdone, Demar put on a clinic on the Nuggets weaker defensive wings for a game high 30 points. I’m especially a fan of the seven trips to the free throw line.
We share in the victory
How’s this for a stat of the night: Eight different Spurs had at least two assists against the Nuggets. There’s always a zest to this offense whenever both LMA and DDR have it going, but it truly was a group effort when looking at the box score. It was the kind of selfless play that the Spurs teams have cut their teeth on. It just seemed like the Spurs were constantly looking to pressure with their passing, often leading to open dunks and fast-break three-point shots.
I’m a huge fan of this Nuggets team and believe them to be serious title contenders right now. Jokic won’t go down easily two games in a row and will be ready to take on more of the scoring this time. Likewise, something tells me that Wednesday’s bricklaying performances of Jamal Murray and sixth man Trey Lyles will be ameliorated by a friendly home court.
All that being said, the Spurs are one of the league’s hottest teams in the month of December and have rattled off some really impressive wins lately. Expect a nail-biter as the teams meet after making their adjustments, but go with the good guys. In the end, Spurs take the season series, barely.
Vegas Prediction: Denver by 4
Game Prediction: Spurs by 2
For the Nuggets fan perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.