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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

The San Antonio Spurs wrap up their miniseries against Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets Monday night

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

With the new scheduling in the NBA, it’s more common for teams to play the same opponent in back-to-back games. So here we are again, where the San Antonio Spurs take on the Denver Nuggets — this time in San Antonio. On Saturday night, the Nuggets jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The lead ended up getting to 31, in large part to the Nuggets couldn’t miss — shooting a blistering 60.9% from the field and 51.7% from three.

With the return home after a day off, Keldon Johnson and company hopefully put up more of a fight. Speaking of Keldon, he’ll likely need to play just as well as he did on Saturday when he scored 25 points on 8-14 shooting (4-7 from three). And he will need help from more than just Devin Vassell. (Those two scored 45 of San Antonio’s 101 points — that’s 44.5%!) That’s easier said than done when you’re having to spend so much effort trying to slow down one of the most potent offenses in the league.

That offense is led by the reigning two-time MVP, and arguably the best player in the league, Nikola Jokić. He isn’t being asked to score as much as the past two seasons because of the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., on top of the Nuggets having a deeper roster. They currently have seven players averaging double-figure scoring, and as we saw on Saturday, Bones Hyland can put up points in a hurry.

It’s going to be a tall task for the Spurs to end their three-game losing streak, but that’s part of the beauty of this season: Whether they win or lose, we get to sit back and watch a young team learn and grow together while trying to find ways to compete against the best teams and players this league has to offer.

San Antonio Spurs (5-5) vs. Denver Nuggets (6-3)

November 7, 2022 | 8:30 PM CST

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

Nuggets Injuries: Jeff Green (probable – finger), Ish Smith (doubtful – calf), Zeke Nnaji (doubtful – ankle)

Spurs Injuries: Romeo Langford (Questionable – toe), Zach Collins (Questionable – leg), Jordan Hall (Probable – foot), Blake Wesley (Out – MCL), Charles Bassey (Out – G League), Dominick Barlow (Out – G League)

What to Watch for

  • Will Devin Vassell still be on a minutes restriction? In his two games back from injury, Vassell scored a career-high 29 points on 12-16 shooting and 20 points on 7-12 shooting. He did this while only playing 25 minutes in each game. With how well he’s been playing this year, him getting back to playing 33-34 minutes a game, at the very least, allows us to watch his progression as a player more – and it’s possible him playing more leads to more wins.
  • Can the Spurs make Nikola Jokić work for his? Jokic has gotten to the point where it never looks like he’s trying that hard and still dominates. In the matchup on Saturday night, he scored 21 points on 9-10 shooting and dished out 10 assists in just 27 minutes of action. He’s been a thorn in the Spurs side for a few years, averaging 28.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per game in his last 10 matchups against the Spurs. He’s likely to get to those numbers again, but hopefully, the Spurs’ bigs can force him to play more to hit them.
  • Can the Spurs starting guards make more of an impact? 8 points on 4-14 shooting from your starting backcourt isn’t going to get it done most nights in the NBA. On the bright side, at least we can hang our hat on the fact that Tre Jones and Malaki Branham are both young and still developing, Branham more so given Saturday was only his second career start and fourth career game. They’re not the primary focal points on offense for the Spurs, but they do need to be more efficient when they’re called upon to take a shot.
  • Who handles the ball for the Spurs? Fans joke about how many guards the Spurs have taken over the years, but with the trades over the past year, the Blake Wesley injury, and cutting ties with Joshua Primo, the Spurs don’t have a point guard beyond Tre Jones. We’ve seen Devin Vassell and Josh Richardson step into the role, but no matter who becomes the initiator on offense once Jones goes to the bench, it’s worth the watch.

For the Nugget fan’s perspective, please visit Denver Stiffs.

If you’d like to, you may follow along with the game on our Twitter profile (@poundingtherock) or visit our Game Thread!