Game Preview: Nuggets Looking for a Strong Surge into All-Star Break
Teams that win – that truly win – know how valuable the days immediately prior to and after the All-Star break can be. Ground can be gained, or lost, in a blink of an eye. Playoff fortunes can be bolstered or damaged.
“This time of year is a great time to steal games,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “A lot of teams mentally have checked out already. They are worried about where they are going for All-Star break. Some teams are out of the playoff running, they’ve already checked out a little bit. So, for us, all of our focus is on San Antonio (Tuesday) night, and then at Milwaukee on Thursday night going into the break.”
The Nuggets are already on a hot streak going into Tuesday night’s home game against the Spurs. Winners in seven of their last 10 games, this is the third time the Nuggets and Spurs will face off in the last month. The other two were in San Antonio, and the last meeting came down to the final possession of the game, a Will Barton 3-point shot that rimmed off to preserve a nail-biting victory for the Spurs.
This, however, is the first time these teams face off in the Mile High City, and the home court advantage goes to the Nuggets, where they have amassed the second-most home wins of any team in the NBA (22). Meanwhile, the Spurs have struggled on the road with a 13-17 record, and this is last of a four-game road trip in which they’ve lost two of three including Monday night at Utah.
Still, these are the Spurs, and wins against them have been difficult to come by. The Nuggets have lost 15 of the last 16 games to San Antonio, including six of the last seven games played at the Pepsi Center.
The Spurs, however, may be without All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. He did not play in Monday night’s game at Utah due to soreness in his right knee and he is questionable for tonight’s game against the Nuggets. The Spurs have played the majority of this season without star guard Kawhi Leonard (thigh) and will do so again tonight.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets continue to play without Paul Millsap (wrist) and Mason Plumlee (calf). Starting guard Jamal Murray (chest) showed up on the injury report on Monday and is listed as questionable for the game.
“We’ve done a pretty good job all year long of playing against the “quality opponents,” Malone said. “We gave San Antonio a great game down there last week on a back-to-back situation, having a chance to win at the buzzer, coming up just short. I think our guys would like to get a win against San Antonio. It’s been a while since we’ve beaten them. And if you look right above us, right behind us, there is a very crowded (playoff) race going on in the Western Conference, and every game has meaning.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.