San Antonio (48-34 SU, 43-38-1 ATS) at Denver (54-28 SU, 42-40 ATS)
Saturday 10:30 P.M. ET
Free NBA Pick: Spurs ATS
The Denver Nuggets have waited six long years to get back to the postseason, while the San Antonio Spurs are perennial participants in the postseason. Denver, the youngest team in the NBA, went from just outside the playoffs a year ago to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs, who now have reached the postseason for 22 straight years, are a formidable first-round opponent for the inexperienced Nuggets.
The constant in San Antonio’s playoff streak is head coach Gregg Popovich. He has been on the bench for five titles and six trips to the NBA Finals but his team has been morphing since reaching the Western Conference finals in 2017.
Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the 2014 Finals and the centerpiece of the franchise after Tim Duncan retired, was unhappy with the team and was shipped to Toronto in the offseason for DeMar DeRozan.
It looked like a year when the Spurs wouldn’t make the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference, but they won 48 games and are back. Local product Derrick White moved into the starting lineup and has become a premier defender and solid offensive player. Bryn Forbes has developed into a reliable shooting guard and LaMarcus Aldridge is still a force on the post.
The Spurs enter the playoffs with loads of postseason experience while the Nuggets are thin. Only three main rotation players have been to the playoffs, with forward Paul Millsap (87 games) the only one with extensive experience.
Denver stumbled down the stretch, winning five of its last 10 and needed a furious rally in the last 3:10 to beat Minnesota on Wednesday night and secure the No. 2 seed. San Antonio, on the other hand, enters the playoffs on a three-game winning streak.
Denver and San Antonio split the four matchups in the regular season, each winning the home games. The Nuggets won the last matchup, 113-85, in Denver on April 3. Popovich was ejected 63 seconds into the game but it’s a good bet he’ll stick around for these games. The Nuggets’ 34 home wins were tops in the NBA but the Spurs won’t be intimidated.
The Spurs are 11-5 ATS on 2-3 days of rest, while the Nuggets have struggled on after multiple days off with a record of 6-7 ATS. The days off is enough of an advantage for San Antonio head coach, Greg Popovich to come up with a perfect game plan to slow down the Nuggets and get an early series upset.