San Antonio Spurs vs Denver Nuggets

Mainstays in the NBA Playoffs, the new-look San Antonio Spurs face off the up-and-coming Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their first-round series on Saturday, April 13th at 10:30 PM EST at Pepsi Centre in Denver, CO. Broadcast is available via ESPN.

How to Watch

What: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets

Where: Pepsi Centre in Denver, CO

When: Saturday, April 13th at 10:30 PM EST

How (TV): ESPN

San Antonio Spurs (Away)

Head Coach: Gregg Popovich {All-Time 1245-575 | SAS}

Season Record: 48-34

Projected Starting Five: (G) Derrick White - (G) DeMar DeRozan - (G) Bryn Forbes - (F) LaMarcus Aldridge - (C) Jakob Poeltl

Top Performers:

  • F Lamarcus Aldridge - 21.3 PPG | 9.2 RPG | 1.3 BPG
  • G DeMar DeRozan - 21.2 PPG | 6.2 APG | 6.0 RPG
  • F Rudy Gay - 13.7 PPG | 6.8 RPG | .402 3P%

The San Antonio Spurs entered this season with a different energy, one of uncertainty as they lost one of their best (and the NBA's best) players and a valuable 3-and-D role player. Despite that, Popovich's system prevailed and they secured the seventh seed in the West.

The Spurs enter this post-season with a positive spirit, despite finishing 5-5 in their last ten matches. Eight of those ten matches were against sub-.500 teams though, so there is a worry regarding their current form.

The Spurs take on an incredible offensive unit in the Denver Nuggets and their star big man, Nikola Jokic. While homecourt advantage is to Denver, the Spurs will certainly look to take advantage of their inexperience.

Denver Nuggets (Home)

Head Coach: Mike Malone {All-Time 54-28 | SAC, DEN}

Season Record: 54-28

Projected Starting Five: (G) Jamal Murray - (G) Gary Harris - (F) Will Barton - (F) Paul Millsap - (C) Nikola Jokic

Top Performers:

  • C Nikola Jokic - 20.1 PPG | 10.8 RPG | 7.3 APG
  • G Jamal Murray - 18.2 PPG | 4.8 APG | .367 3P%
  • F Paul Millsap - 12.6 PPG | 7.2 RPG | 2.9 DWS

The Denver Nuggets seem to have leapfrogged expectations this year. Going from a promising young side of the future at the beginning of the season, to a dangerous championship threat by its end. Their performance awarded them the second seed in the West.

As the season closed out, the Nuggets struggled. They went 4-6 in their last ten games and found themselves out of the running for the top seed in the Western Conference. They didn't collapse, but it wasn't an encouraging sign to enter the postseason.

It is a matchup of youth versus experience when the Nuggets and Spurs face off. Denver's homecourt advantage at altitude is unlike any other, but the guidance of Gregg Popovich for this Spurs side is nothing to underestimate.

What's At Stake?

In 187 regular season games, the San Antonio Spurs lead the Denver Nuggets 118-69.

These two teams have shared a series six times in the NBA Playoffs, since 1983. The Spurs have the all-time series lead, 5-1.

With game one in Denver, both teams aim to take the early lead in the series.

Will DeMar DeRozan Prove Himself?

The driving force for the Toronto Raptors for years, DeMar DeRozan still looks odd in a Spurs uniform but is clearly enjoying himself to the tune of a career year. DeRozan is the Spurs' primary playmaker, but his lack of shooting is what forces him into a high-usage role.

The book is out on DeRozan, and come playoff time he has struggled to be efficient from the floor as defenses collapse:

Statistical worries aside, the two-man game between DeRozan and Aldridge is key to the Spurs' success. He is shooting his worst percentage from three since he was a sophomore, so DeRozan will have to once again prove he can be the go-to option in high-pressure scenarios.

Will Home Court Give Favour to the Nuggets?

The city of Denver, Colorado is known as the mile-high city. The history behind the name? Denver sits between 5130ft-5690ft (1560m-1730m) above sea-level. The advantage of altitude has always tied the Nuggets to a game of pace.

While this young Denver team plays in the half court more than most teams in the NBA (27th of 30), the defensive ability of the San Antonio Spurs is sure to force them to search for easy baskets in transition.

While it is not their typical play style, the increased pace of the Nuggets at altitude is always an advantage - shown by their 34-7 home record. The Spurs aren't an easy match, so taking every advantage they have will be essential.

Savvy Minds, Young Players

The San Antonio Spurs certainly don't have the playoff pedigree on their roster that they once owned. With seven of their contracted fifteen players born after 1995, the Spurs are certainly a young team.

Never doubt the lessons of Gregg Popovich though, one of the best coaches of all-time. The Spurs are sure to shorten their rotation in the playoffs but they will always need spot minutes from the likes of Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, and Davis Bertans.

The Spurs are first in three-point efficiency while being last in attempts per game. Second in field-goal percentage while being seventeenth in attempts per game. Their style of play is all around efficiency, don't expect the surprising youth of the Spurs suggest a lack of discipline.

All Eyes On Jokic

Nikola Jokic, also known as The Joker and The Honey Bear, is a light-hearted NBA star with some serious talent behind his game. He exploded onto the scene this year and was rewarded with his first NBA All-Star appearance.

His greatest value, despite being a seven-footer, is his playmaking from the high-post. Similar to how LaMarcus Aldridge operates, he is most efficient from 22-feet and in. Whether he can get his playmaking off against the defense of the Spurs is another story.

Should the Nuggets cutters be stopped and shooter be covered, expect Jokic to be more selfish. If anything he is too unselfish, but the Serbian will need to be their star on the score sheet if they hope to progress into future rounds.

San Antonio Spurs Roster Notes

G Dejounte Murray - 13 Mar 2019 - Out For Season (Knee) - Murray is making progress and is practicing on his own, but he's not expected to play this season, according to Jeff Garcia of FOXSanAntonio.com. He had ACL surgery on his knee before the season started.

F Dante Cunningham - 10 Apr 2019 - Day To Day (Illness) - Cunningham did not play in Wednesday's (April 10) game.

Denver Nuggets Roster Notes

F Michael Porter - 21 Mar 2019 - Out (Back) - Porter Jr. has been participating in light contact 3-on-3 drills in practice, but is still a long shot to return this year according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic.

X-Factors: Rudy Gay (SAS) vs Mason Plumlee (DEN)

Two dynamic athletes off the bench will be the key factors in this game. For an egalitarian offense, Rudy Gay is asked to convert in short-clock situations for the Spurs. On the other end, Mason Plumlee has the energy and athleticism to control a game without even scoring a basket.

Rudy Gay

Small Forward | 6-8, 230lb (203cm, 104kg) | UConn | Exp. 12 Years

13.7 PPG | 2.6 APG | 6.8 RPG | 0.8 SPG | 0.5 BPG | 1.7 TOV | .504 FG% | .402 3P%

Long removed from his days as a number one option, Gregg Popovich hasn't asked Rudy Gay to change his game too much. He leads the Spurs bench unit in scoring and is a valuable isolation scorer for the side.

Plays eventually break down and you are forced to convert in difficult situations. That is what Rudy Gay is on the Spurs for. When he spells Derozan and Aldridge, Gay is the star on the court.

Don't discount his defensive ability because of his offensive focus though, Gay is incredibly long and still athletic enough to keep up with much faster attackers. He should be an end-to-end presence.

Mason Plumlee

Power Forward/Center | 6-11, 235lb (211cm, 106kg) | Duke | Exp. 5 Years

7.8 PPG | 3.0 APG | 6.4 RPG | 0.8 SPG | 0.9 BPG | 1.5 TOV | .593 FG% | .200 3P%

Mason Plumlee doesn't have the numbers to compete for it, but he should be in consideration for the sixth man of the year. His energy is boundless and he is always an impact player for the Nuggets when he steps onto the court.

As a big man he is the antithesis to Nikola Jokic. Plumlee is fast, athletic, and impactful physically. What he lacks are the technical skills to make him a threat with the ball in his hands.

But that's okay for the Nuggets, as Plumlee's energy adds another gear to the Nuggets on offense and defense. If Millsap weren't tough enough on defense, Plumlee adds a larger, more athletic dimension to that backline when the stars go to rest.

San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Predictions and Odds

If you live in New Jersey you can bet on the matchup between the Spurs and the Nuggets, at these sportsbooks:

Sportsbook San Antonio Spurs Denver Nuggets Link
888Sport NJ +180 -220
BetStars NJ +180 -225

* 21+ | NJ only | If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER

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