Game Preview: Nuggets Return Home for Crucial Game 5 Against Spurs

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

In what essentially boiled down to a must-win game, the Denver Nuggets came out firing in the second half of Game 4 and pulled away for an impressive, series-tying victory in San Antonio. There have only been 11 instances in NBA history in which a team came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, which made it vital that Denver returned to Pepsi Center with the series knotted at two games apiece.

Now the Nuggets have homecourt advantage throughout the remainder of the series, with two of the last three games being played at Pepsi Center. Over the past three games of the series, Denver has been lights out from deep, having connected on 46.7 percent from three as it went 2-1 to even the series. If that hot shooting continues, it will help Nikola Jokić have room to operate in the post. Jokić has had a very good series so far, averaging 20.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game.

DeMar DeRozan continues to be the driving force for the Spurs, as he has averaged 23.3 points, 7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the series. With Torrey Craig inserted into the starting lineup in Game 4 to guard DeRozan, it will be key for him to make things difficult for DeRozan in the midrange.

Here are some keys to tonight’s pivotal Game 5:

1) Riding the hot hand(s): In Game 4, several players stepped up to hit key 3-pointers for the Nuggets. Torrey Craig knocked down 5 of 7 from deep, while Will Barton and Jamal Murray each hit three 3-pointers. As mentioned earlier, Denver has been hitting 3-pointers at a high rate over the past three games of the series, which will continue to be key to their offense operating at a high level. With the Nuggets able to generate plenty of quality looks from long range, it will be important to ride with the hot hands in Game 5.

2) Continue to bother Derrick White: In the Spurs’ Game 3-win, White scored a career-high 36 points, with many of them coming in the paint. In Game 4, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone put Gary Harris on White, which helped limit his effectiveness. White was held to just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field, while he also committed 4 turnovers. With Craig tasked with guarding DeRozan, Harris can focus his efforts on limiting White’s drives to the rim, thus making it harder on one of San Antonio’s lead guards.

3) Defend homecourt: With two of the next three games taking place in Denver (if the series goes to seven games), it is important the Nuggets defend homecourt like they did in the regular season. Although the Spurs struggled on the road during the regular season (16-25), they were able to escape with a win in Game 1 and were leading through the majority of Game 2 before Murray led Denver’s comeback. The Nuggets finished with the best home record in the league this season at 34-7, so it is imperative they take care of business at home if they want to advance to the second round.

Tonight’s game will tip at 7:30 p.m. MT (WATCH: ALTITUDE, NBA TV, RADIO: KKSE-FM 92.5).

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