This series has flipped entirely on its head as it has gone on in favor of the Denver Nuggets. The Spurs dominated the majority of quarters up until the 2nd quarter of Game 4 when Denver went on a huge run to erase a 12-point hole, eventually winning that game to tie the series up 2-2. Game 5, the pivotal game of any series tied at 2-2, was a continuation of that momentum, with Denver back in their home building and feeding off the crowd. The Spurs, by contrast and for large stretches, looked like they wanted to be anywhere but in Mile High City and for the first time, the series truly looked like a 2 seed taking on a 7 seed.
Coming back home for Game 6, the Spurs still have their pedigree at home to lean on (32-9 during the regular season), but Denver smells blood, and they have to know it. They’ve found ways to minimize the Spurs’ role players with tenacious aggression, which is most apparent in their newfound desire to blitz and blow-up every single pick and roll San Antonio runs.
There is still a chance for them to force a Game 7, but it will take a much better effort than they’ve displayed the last two games for San Antonio to come back to Denver this weekend.
Denver Nuggets (3-2) versus San Antonio Spurs (2-3)
April 25, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: TNT, FSSW | Listen: WOAI
Spurs Injuries: Dejounte Murray (ACL — out)
Nuggets Injuries: None
The bench HAS to be due for a big game (right? RIGHT!?)
I know it feels like a cop-out to mention the bench playing bad when, in reality, everyone played bad for the Spurs in Game 5, but what was one of San Antonio’s strengths most of the season was once again outplayed and, frankly, looked completely outmatched for much of the game. The free-wheeling, fun loving, “United Nations of Ball Movement,” has been unable to get anything to fall throughout the series.
Playing at home, in a win-or-go-home game in front of their fans has me thinking that the Basketball Gods will lift the lid off the rim that has plagued the Spurs the last couple of games. Hopefully the bench will have a bit more spring in their step and some of those shots will go in again like they did when they were operating at peak efficiency during the regular season
Jamal Murray outplayed Derrick White once again
Since recording a career-high 36 points in Game 3, Derrick White has largely been overshadowed by his Denver counterpart, Jamal Murray. White has 20 points combined since that Game 3 explosion, while Murray had 23 alone in Game 5 to go with his 24 from Game 4. White had a tremendously strong start to the series, with Murray largely as his main defender. The insertion of Torrey Craig into Denver’s starting line-up means that the more agile Gary Harris is now guarding White, who has had a very difficult time adjusting.
Coach Gregg Popovich needs to find ways to get White going again. I’ve heard on Twitter that it’s silly to put all your faith in the hands of just a 2nd year pro, but White has been a key cog on this team all season, and regardless of his experience he needs to be better for the Spurs to advance. He’s certainly not afraid of the moment. Let’s hope he can put on another show for San Antonio and help them to force Game 7 or at least keep it close.
The Spurs shot that bad again in Game 5. Will shots fall tonight?
So much of the game of basketball comes down to a simple question and its answer: Did your shots go in?
For two games in a row now, the answer has been a resounding NO for San Antonio. They failed to make a single shot outside of the paint in Game 4 after the 1st quarter, and in Game 5, it looked like they couldn’t get the lid off the rim again. A key difference from Game 4, though, was how bad they were at the rim. DeMar DeRozan, for example, missed all 4 shots he took in the restricted area, and he certainly wasn’t alone in this regard.
The Spurs narrowly won the points in the paint advantage 40-38, but they need to be in the 50-60 range tonight to force a Game 7.
Vegas Line: Spurs by 2.5
Prediction: Spurs by 3
For the visitor’s perspective, please visit Denver Stiffs.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.