Preview: Denver Nuggets wrap up season series vs. Spurs
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Denver Nuggets’ winning streak continued Wednesday night in a grind-it-out 106-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Nikola Jokić led the way for Denver with a near triple-double (25 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds), while the Nuggets got a spark off the bench, including several big dunks from JaVale McGee and JaMychal Green.
The Nuggets (33-18) now face the daunting task of beating the same team twice in a row, as the Spurs remain in Denver for the third and final game between these two teams this season on Friday.
San Antonio (24-25) had a balanced offensive attack Wednesday but struggled to hit shots or keep Denver off the boards.
Projected starters: Facundo Campazzo, Will Barton III, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić
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Key matchup: Aaron Gordon vs. DeMar DeRozan
It’s hard to place the entire responsibility of defending DeRozan on Gordon alone, as it will certainly require a team effort from Denver on the defensive end of the floor in hopes of slowing down San Antonio’s lead offensive creator.
However, the Nuggets did just that Wednesday night, holding DeRozan to 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting from the floor, and the 31-year-old also committed four turnovers.
Gordon will likely continue to earn the majority of opportunities defensively against DeRozan, and Denver’s marquee trade deadline acquisition will have to be careful in avoiding fouls. DeRozan was able to get Gordon in early foul trouble Wednesday night, which could spell trouble for Denver’s defense if that repeats Friday.
Crash the offensive glass
One area of strength in Denver’s victory Wednesday was on the offensive glass. Despite the Spurs being an above-average defensive rebounding team on the season, the Nuggets grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and their offensive rebound percentage of 36.7 percent ranked in the 95th percentile.
McGee and Michael Porter Jr. led the efforts with three offensive rebounds each, and in a slow, defensive battle, those extra possessions proved to be a major difference between the two teams.
The Nuggets are a dominant offensive team for several reasons, with elite offensive rebounding continuing to be one of the leading components on that end of the floor. On the season, Denver ranks second in the league with a 29 percent offensive rebound percentage.
Take care of the ball
Denver’s offense struggled Wednesday night, scoring just 106 points on 44 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc.
However, an area Denver will want to improve in against San Antonio is taking care of the ball. The Nuggets committed 19 total turnovers Wednesday, and although the Spurs were not able to take advantage (they only scored 13 points off those turnovers), that is a recipe for allowing a worse team to hang around and potentially steal a game on your homecourt.
Denver turned the ball over on 18.5 percent of possessions Wednesday, which ranked in the 18th percentile. On the season, the Nuggets have done a good job of limiting mistakes, ranking 11th in turnover percentage at 13.6 percent.
Look for head coach Michael Malone to drill home the importance of valuing each possession against a dangerous Spurs team Friday.
All statistics as of Thursday, April 8.