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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

The Spurs look to make it two in a row tonight against league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

In Thursday’s win over the Nuggets, the Spurs had the benefit of not only playing at home, but a bit of a rest advantage over a Denver team on a road SEGABABA and nearing the end of a 7-game road trip. Watching that game, though, one may not have realized the scenario, as the Nuggets made numerous attempts at a rally throughout that game, only succumbing in the final minute when it was truly over. With a day off to rest their legs before tonight’s game and a bit of the familiarity that comes from facing a team again so soon after a match-up, there’s no reason to doubt that Denver will once again make it a game tonight.

The Spurs, who are 5-2 in their last 7 games with some impressive performances, will still enjoy the advantage at least of having slept in their own beds in between these games. With tonight being the final game of the aforementioned 7-game road trip for a beat up Denver team, an explosive showing early on could put the nail in the coffin that sends the Nuggets back home to the Mile High City.

San Antonio Spurs (9-15) vs. Denver Nuggets (12-13)

December 11, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Keldon Johnson (Doubtful — Ankle)

Denver Nuggets Injuries: Austin Rivers (Out — COVID), P.J. Dozier (Out – Knee), Jamal Murray, (Out – Knee), Michael Porter Jr. (Out – Back)

What to watch for

  • The Nuggets are among worst rebounding teams in the league this season. They rank just middle of the pack in % of defensive boards grabbed and are dead-last in total rebounds per game. The Spurs were able to grab 14 offensive rebounds throughout Thursday’s contest and turn those into 20 2nd chance points. A dominating, physical performance on the boards could put too much pressure on the Nuggets and have them thinking of home sooner rather than later.
  • Lonnie Walker IV has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, but he was on in the first match-up between these teams this week and his 21 points played a huge part in holding off Denver. As has been the case in the past, Walker has looked hesitant at times this season, but when he plays loose and with the confidence to look for his shot, good things happen for the Spurs. As Marilyn mentioned in her recap, hopefully Thursday night’s contest was, “the game,” for Walker and he can carry that level of play over into tonight and moving forward.
  • Denver won the turnover battle on Thursday night, having just 8 turnovers compared to 13 for the Spurs. Both teams are among the most prolific assist-wise this season while also ranking 5th and 6th, respectfully, in turnovers per game. A reversal of that turnover battle to go along with a repeat performance on the boards would be ideal for San Antonio tonight.
  • If the Spurs are to have any shot at returning to the postseason this year, they need more of what Derrick White has been doing these last 7 games. White has notched double-digit points in each of those games, while breaking the 20-point mark in four of them. Those four games, in which the Spurs are 3-1, are his only games this season with at least 20 points. Perhaps he takes it a step further tonight and goes for 36 like he did in the playoffs against his home state squad a few years ago?
  • That the Nuggets are hanging around .500 and in the mix for a playoff spot out West is a testament to Nikola Jokic. Playing without the star power of Jamal Murray coming into this season and now Michael Porter Jr. as well, the reigning MVP has continued to go to work and carry the Nuggets. The Joker has collected 36 assists in his last 3 games, finishing all 3 of them triple doubles. He’s also Denver’s only reliable rebounder, averaging 7 more rebounds a game than the next closest Nugget. Containing Denver comes down to containing Jokic and while he may not be able to do it, Jakob Poeltl will fight like hell tonight trying.

For the Nuggets fans’ perspective, 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.