Nuggets Look to Bring Physicality to Game 4 Against Spurs
The Denver Nuggets suffered a tough loss in Game 3 of their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, falling behind 2-1 in the series. Although the Nuggets hit their 3-pointers (15 of 29) and moved the ball well (31 assists), they were outrebounded for a second-consecutive game and allowed Derrick White to score 36 points, with the majority of his baskets coming inside the paint.
"They dominated us with their physicality, their screens, their rebounding and their aggressive drives, so we've got to be better,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said on Friday.
"They were aggressive the whole game,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said. “We have to be more physical, more aggressive and come out with a sense of urgency in Game 4. We have to match the physicality."
San Antonio scored 62 points in the paint in the 118-108 Game 3 victory, prompting the Nuggets to review film and realize the importance of increasing their physicality moving forward.
"He (Malone) conveyed that to us on film and we all agreed,” Harris said. “We have to make them feel us, offensively and defensively all over the court."
San Antonio grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in Game 3 and has averaged 12 offensive rebounds per game in the series, a significant increase from the 9.2 per game they averaged during the regular season. Several players in Denver’s rotation have seen steep declines in their rebounding during the playoffs, prompting the need for more physicality on the boards.
"Rebounding is indicative of your physicality, and we haven't been doing that at the level we're accustomed to,” Malone said.
Harris was quick to point out that the responsibility of rebounding doesn’t solely fall on the team’s big men.
"It's on us guards. We've got to come help those bigs (on the boards) when they're down there fighting."
Keeping San Antonio off the glass, preventing easy drives to the rim and increasing the physicality when running around and through screens will be key to sharpening Denver’s defense moving forward.
"We just got to be tougher,” Monte Morris said. “Our goal going into Game 4 is to be physical, be the first to every loose ball and look like we want to compete and make a stronger effort."
As Denver looks to regain homecourt advantage with a win in Game 4, physicality on both ends of the floor will likely play a key role. Denver has knocked down at least 41 percent of its 3-pointers in the past two games, making shooting less of a concern.
At this stage in a series, the hustle plays can make a big difference, and Malone is certainly aware of that.
"If we want a chance of winning (in Game 4), we've got to set the tone early with our physicality, our hit-first mentality and our rebounding."