The Denver Nuggets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in the first round after a fierce Game 7. Considering the stellar regular season the Nuggets had to grab the number two seed, it was a given that they would most likely breeze through the series. Denver finished the regular season with a 54-28 record, their best season since the 2012-13 regular season. Facing the seventh seed San Antonio Spurs served as a slight advantage, as the Spurs hold the worst road record of any playoff team in the Western Conference at 16-25. However, this series was an aggressive series that proved to be one of the most must-see matchups. Let’s recap how the series went and what to look for both teams moving ahead.
Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs Playoff Series Recap
San Antonio, despite their poor road record, managed to steal Game 1 in Denver with a double-double from Demar DeRozan (18 points and 12 rebounds) as well a solid performance from point guard Derrick White, who put great pressure on Denver to make shots. Even though Denver shot a poor 21.4% from three in Game 1, they were hot from downtown to tie the series 1-1 at home; shooting 41.7%. The Spurs then dominated at home in Game 3 with hot performances from DeRozan and White again.
Denver’s back-to-back Game 4 and 5 victories were the turning point of the series. It proved how formidable of a pairing Denver’s duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray truly are. Jokic and Murray combined for 92 points in both victories to potentially close out the series on the road in Game 6. Instead, the Spurs protected their home floor in a much-needed win to force a Game 7.
Game 7 at Denver was a nail-biter as both teams fought with grit to make it a close game. The intensity heightened in the 4th quarter when Murray made a beautiful floater to put the Nuggets up by four with 35.9 seconds left in the game. After DeRozan missed a shot with 27 seconds left, the Spurs had plenty enough time to foul. Instead, they made an explicable decision not to foul, allowing the Nuggets to win the series, advancing to the semis against the Portland Trailblazers.
Potential Dark Horse for NBA Finals?
For the Denver Nuggets, the odds were against them for making an impressive regular season and playoff run. Being in a tough Western Conference that seems to get tougher every year, the Nuggets have only won two playoff series in the last 25 years. Furthermore, only two guys in their nine-man rotation have relevant playoff experience (Paul Millsap and Will Barton).
Regardless, the Nuggets young core proved to be one of the most intriguing teams in the league as well as a potential dominating force in the West. The root of the Nuggets success stems from their high offensive and defensive efficiency, mainly from Murray and Jokic. When those two play well in tandem, it allows the supporting bench to blend in well with their rhythm.
While the Nuggets are striving to reach the NBA Finals, their real test lie on if they have the girth to stop the offensive powerhouses of the conference being Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets.
Another Uneventful Year for the Spurs
Despite the Spurs making their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance, this season was where San Antonio may have lost their firepower. Even though LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar DeRozan have filled the offensive void left behind by superstar Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs will most likely suffer long-term from the lack of a superstar like Leonard. Also, the loss of their projected point guard Dejounte Murray has negatively affected the Spurs with keeping a balanced roster.
Eventually, the Spurs want to get back in the hunt for more championships. However, if they want to do so, they will have to formulate a plan to decrease their talent disparity.
The Denver Nuggets contender hopes will be put to the test as they face the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference semis. Facing a scorching Damian Lillard can be a real threat to the Nuggets, as they will have to find out a game plan to try to stop him.
Even though Lillard’s the best player in the series, the Nuggets have a more versatile, deep core surrounding Jokic. If the Nuggets dominate on the road like in the first round, they will have a great chance of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
As for the Spurs, this offseason should be pretty quiet, as their major decisions revolve around guards players Rudy Gay and DeRozan. Gay can either stay with the Spurs or let the Spurs get rid of him. As for DeRozan, the Spurs have the decision of either giving him a contract extension or he’ll be a free agent for the 2020 season.