Sometimes we all need to do is get out of our bubble and look at things through someone else’s eyes. For instance, a team’s fans will worry about how our players will shoot, defend and rebound, and discount what the other team does. The best example is free throw shooting. Regardless of how many free throws the other team misses, a team’s fans will always lament how badly “we” shot from the free throw line. And when the other teams shoots poorly, it is not as if our team played great free throw defense.
Obviously, this also applies to missed calls by the officials. It’s easy to remember the missed calls against us, but not the ones that went in our favor. Of course, this rule applies to players too. I have yet to see a player turn down the “and one” opportunity when the official incorrectly calls a foul on a defender who touched nothing but air, but that same player will certainly let the official know that he “never touched him” when the call goes the other way.
How does this relate to the Spurs — Nuggets series? Let’s think about how the Nuggets are approaching the series, through their eyes.
First: the Nuggets can only lose. They are the higher seed and just finished a season in which they spent most of the year stunningly battling the Death Star Warriors for the top seed. While the Spurs would be mildly pleased with the season if they put up a good fight and fall in six or seven games, the Nuggets will see the season as a failure if they don’t get out of the first round.
Second: while the Nuggets are rightfully favored, they know that this is a series that they can lose. Other than the fourth game between the teams, each Spurs – Nuggets game this year was close. As to the fourth game, more on address that one below.
Third: Playoff experience. The Spurs have a bunch of players with a lot of playoff experience. The Nuggets do not. One reason is that the Nuggets didn’t even make the playoffs last year, which makes this season even more remarkable for them.
Fourth: the Nuggets don’t have a long and successful history to fall back on. Unlike, for instance, the Spurs. The Spurs will always have the five crowns. The Nuggets have never even made it to the Finals. The highlight of the Nuggets’ history? Maybe trading Carmelo Anthony?
- The fourth game of the season series was a Nuggets blowout, 113 – 85. It looked like the Nuggets were sending a message to the Spurs: “Do you really want to play us in the first round?” However, it was the second night of a back-to-back for the Spurs. They beat the Atlanta Hawks the night before at home and had to fly to the Mile High City and play the next night. The key thing about playing at altitude is the ability to acclimate. Doctors say 48 hours largely does it. Less than 24 hours does not. And yes, the Nuggets were coming off a back-to-back in Golden State that night too, but as residents they can acclimate a lot quicker, and their players were more rested since it was a blowout loss for them. They won’t have quite the same advantage this time around with the Spurs arriving Friday morning and surely staying between Games 1 and 2.
- In the four Nuggets games, the Spurs shot 31 for 111 from three. 28%. While the Nuggets defend the three well, the best shooting team in the NBA should not shoot over 10% under the Spurs season average (39.1%) against anyone.
- The Nuggets get almost three more offensive rebounds per game than the Spurs (11.9 vs 9.2 per game). Check the box scores. If the Spurs break even on that stat, and make their threes, that may be the difference in turning the series in the Spurs favor.