Game 4: Denver (1-2) at San Antonio (2-1)
Saturday, 5:30 PM ET (TNT)
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Does playoff experience matter? Most seem to think it does in the NBA, and we might be seeing that’s true in the first-round Western Conference matchup between the second-seeded Denver Nuggets and seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs lead 2-1 and are chock-full of guys with playoff experience, considering this franchise has played extra basketball 22 straight seasons, not to mention having one of the best coaches in NBA history in Gregg Popovich. Denver is a young team and in the postseason for the first time since 2013.
San Antonio could easily be up 3-0 in this series as it has been the better team for all but perhaps the fourth quarter of Game 2 when Jamal Murray went nuts. On Thursday, the series shifted to San Antonio and the Spurs improved to 33-9 at the AT&T Center this season with a 118-108 victory over the Nuggets.
Popovich always seems to uncover some diamond in the rough at point guard and he apparently has another one in Derrick White, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 draft. White was the best player on the floor Thursday with a career-high 36 points to go with five assists, five rebounds and three steals. San Antonio was a whopping plus-30 in his 33 minutes. DeMar DeRozan (25 points, five assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 11 rebounds) did their usual thing.
White also played great defense on Denver’s most dangerous scorer, Murray. He has been really quiet this series other than that aforementioned fourth quarter of Game 2, and Murray had just six points in Game 3 and was minus-25 in 31 minutes. Will Barton has been terrible all series and had just four points.
I fully expect Nuggets coach Mike Malone to make a change there and perhaps shift Malik Beasley into the starting five. Beasley played well in Game 3, shooting 7-for-13 for 20 points with nine rebounds. Denver was plus-13 with him on the court. Actually, every Nuggets reserve had a plus rating, while every starter was at least minus-23.
The Spurs have some mixed Game 4 history of late. Last year, they lost in five games in the first round to the Warriors but that lone victory was 103-90 at home in Game 4. The year before, the Spurs lost Game 4 of the first round in Memphis in overtime, lost Game 4 of the conference semifinals in a blowout in Houston, and were swept out of the West Finals with a 14-point home Game 4 loss to Golden State.
- Nuggets are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 road games.
- Spurs are 6-2 ATS in past 8 home meetings.
- Under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings.
Denver didn’t play great in the final couple of the weeks of the regular season and isn’t experienced enough to just flip the switch. Back the Spurs again and go ‘under’ for Game 3.