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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

The Spurs look to bounce back from losing two straight as they go up against the Nuggets

New York Knicks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs head into a two-game slate against the Denver Nuggets, having lost their last two games. The Spurs (4-7 at home) will look to find a way for more wins at the AT&T Center, as this is the second game of a five-game homestand. With it looking like Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson are going to miss the game, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White will be tasked to score even more than they have been. Plus, with Nikola Jokic on the other side, Jakob Poeltl will be asked to play as well as he ever has.

The Denver Nuggets come into this one having beat the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime 120-114 last night. They’re in the middle of a seven game road trip, and when it’s over, they would’ve played 9 of 10 games on the road. No matter what this team is going through though, as long as they have the reigning MVP on the court, they’re a problem, seeing how he just put up a 39-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double on 17-23 shooting.

San Antonio Spurs (8-15) vs. Denver Nuggets (12-12)

December 9, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST

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

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Devin Vassell (Doubtful — Quadriceps), 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:

  • Nikola Jokic is the easy answer here, and for good reason. The Nuggets go as he goes, as noted by the stat line above from last night. And he’s been pretty dominate against the Spurs as of late. In his last five games against the Spurs, he’s averaging 28.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 9.4 assists on 61% shooting and 54.5% from 3, and the Nuggets have won four of those five (he’s 9-3 against the Spurs in his last 12). Given the Nuggets are 26th in points per game and are 19th in 3-point percentage, this may be a game for Pop to double hard on Jokic and see if any other Nuggets player can go nuclear. (Side note: This is typically the game plan against the Nuggets, and even then, Jokic can just go off anyway, as evident by last night. When a team plays a guy of this caliber, they just need to hold on for dear life and hope they play well, or he has an off night)
  • It seems like every game, the Spurs go through a couple stretches where a lid has been put on the rim. Against the Knicks, the Spurs went 2:43 in the second quarter without a field goal, allowing the Knicks to build an 11-point lead. Then again in the third, they went 3:33 without a score. These types of stretches happen to every team, but the Spurs need to find a way to limit how often they happen each game.
  • What do the Spurs do at the small forward position? With Devin Vassell missing five of the last 6 games (only played 10 minutes against Portland), the Spurs were already short on players that could fill this spot. Now, with Keldon Johnson having an injured ankle, they’re really hurting for players to play there (pun not intended). Keita Bates-Diop has played relatively well in spot minutes, and we’ve seen more Primo minutes than anybody expected, but whoever spends time at this position will be one to keep an eye on (hopefully even more Primo).
  • In the first meeting, the Spurs forced 21 turnovers, but turned it over 20 times themselves. Even with the number of turnovers being close, the Nuggets outscored the Spurs 20-10 off of these turnovers, with the Nuggets also winning fastbreak points 17-7. The Nuggets are one of the better teams at not turning it over, so when they do, the Spurs need to find ways to take full advantage of them. On the other end, the 20 turnovers are still the most the Spurs have had in a game this season. They’re the 6th best team at holding onto the ball, so staying true to the team’s nature should help.

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.