Despite losing their last eleven games, there is room for optimism amongst Spurs fans. In the last two games, the San Antonio Spurs have fought hard to stay in games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. After a players-only meeting, it seems like the Silver and Black are starting to figure a few things out. They will have their work cut out for them with the defending champions on Sunday night.
The Denver Nuggets are without their premier scoring guard Jamal Murray, but still boast one of the best starting lineups in the league. The two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic, is a walking triple-double who is flanked by positionless wings that can dribble, pass, shoot and defend. Despite losing 4 of their last 5 games, the Nuggets pose a difficult challenge for the struggling Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs (3-13) at Denver Nuggets (10-6)
November 26, 2023 | 7 P.M. CT
Watch: Bally | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Dominick Barlow – Out (G League,) Charles Bediako – Out (G League,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League,) Sir’Jabari Rice – Out (G League,) Blake Wesley – Out (G League)
Nuggets injuries: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Probable (right ankle,) Vlatko Cancar – Out (left knee,) Aaron Gordon – Probable (right heel,) Reggie Jackson – Probably (low back,) Nikola Jokic – Probably (low back,) Jamal Murray – Out (right hamstring)
What to watch for
Winning the bench minutes
It’s no secret that Denver’s starters are amongst the best in the NBA. Their bench on the other hand, has struggled. The Nuggets are 27th in the NBA in bench scoring. After moving Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup to replace Murray, they are severely lacking offensive creation off the bench.
The Spurs however tout a decent bench lineup. They are 12th in the league in bench scoring. Tre Jones is a formidable sixth-man that many could argue should be starting. Cedi Osman has been vital to the Spurs best lineups, and Malaki Branham and Doug McDermott provide some offensive firepower in the second unit. The Spurs will need to capitalize on the minutes in which Jokic isn’t on the floor, and take advantage of the Nuggets bench weakness.
Slowing down Jokic
The Nuggets big man is one of, if not the best player in the league. This season he’s averaging 28.2 points, 13.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists. The Spurs will have to find a way to slow him down, because not many in the league can stop him. Zach Collins, while easily abused in deep drop pick and roll defense, is a physical and smart post defender. He will likely be tasked with guarding Jokic. The Spurs will need him to hold his own on the block against the former-MVP.
The Spurs have been middle-of-the-pack in turning opponents over. They forced the Warriors to cough it up 24 times on Friday night. The Nuggets don’t average many turnovers, but having Victor Wembanyama and other instinctual help defenders could help cut off some of Jokic’s passing lanes. Replicating Friday’s performance would go a long ways toward disrupting Jokic’s game.
Can Wembanyama stay hot?
This should be an interesting game for the Spurs rookie. It’s his first time playing in the high-altitude of Denver, so his conditioning will be paramount. He’s coming off two straight games where he 20+ points. Can he keep it going against the defending champs?
The Nuggets are particularly well equipped to guard Wemby. Aaron Gordon has the speed, strength and athleticism to match up with Wembanyama inside and out. Jokic gives the Nuggets another physical answer inside. Michael Porter Jr., while not known as a great defender, is a rangy wing who could match up with Wembanyama’s size and agility. It’s certainly a test, but one you’d like to see the rookie rise to the occasion for.