Preview: Denver travels to San Antonio for their second road game in two nights

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The first of two straight games in The Alamo City that will finally wrap up the Nuggets’ current road trip.

The Denver Nuggets face the San Antonio Spurs tonight, as they look to climb above .500 for the first time since late November. Denver has already matched up with the Spurs once this year, when Denver took them down in Denver on October 22nd. Denver is on the second night of a back-to-back after escaping New Orleans with an overtime win thanks to some late heroics from Nikola Jokic.

The main weapon for the Spurs tonight will be Dejounte Murray. The sixth-year point guard has been the straw that stirs the drink for San Antonio every night. In the team’s eight wins, he has a net rating of +21.4 compared to -8.0 in their 15 losses. He’s the only player currently averaging over 15.0 points per game, and he has three triple doubles on the year after putting up just five combined in his previous four seasons of play. (He missed the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL.) This Spurs team isn’t one that’s going to contend this year, but they are scrappy on a nightly basis.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (11-12, 4-8 away) vs San Antonio Spurs (8-15, 4-7 home)

When: 6:30 PM MT

Where: AT&T Center

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough) or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Pounding The Rock

Expected Starting Lineups:

SA: PG Dejounte Murray, SG Derrick White, SF Lonnie Walker, PF Doug McDermott, C Jakob Poeltl

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Austin Rivers (out), Devin Vassell (doubtful), Keldon Johnson (doubtful)

Three Things to Watch

Work Inside

The Nuggets have times when their offense becomes stagnant and settle for shots from outside rather than getting to the rim and working inside. Looking at their game last night against the New Orleans Pelicans, they had just four points in the paint in third quarter after dominating that area in the first half. When they went on their run late in the game and overtime, it was all points in the paint. This also lets them get to the free-throw line by drawing fouls. The Spurs are not a particularly stout group in the paint, but, in the games they’ve won, their opponents have made, on average, about six fewer shots per game inside the three-point line. With guys like Monte Morris, Aaron Gordon and Jokic, Denver can have a strong advantage inside that they need to exploit.

Win the Free Throw Battle

The Spurs rank 30th in free throws and 29th in free-throw attempts. Meanwhile, Denver ranks 29th in made free throws and 30th in free-throw attempts. This is one of those under-the-radar battles that could end up deciding the game. In their wins, the Spurs take an average of 5.0 more attempts per game from the charity stripe. In addition, if Denver is getting to the stripe often, that would imply that they were likely working at the rim, which is another area they need to be strong in to win this game.

Rebounding

Denver ranks 30th in the NBA in rebounds per game, and they nearly lost last night when they got outrebounded by 13 on the road. The Spurs aren’t a great rebounding team, but they’re still higher than Denver at 19th overall. Loose balls and extra possessions are what can be the difference between winning and losing close games, and Denver can’t afford to drop any more winnable games. With two games in San Antonio on the docket to finish off this long road trip, grabbing rebounds and winning the first game can help them build momentum into their return home.

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