Last Updated: 2019-04-12
The No. 7 seed San Antonio Spurs will face off against the No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The Nuggets were listed as -240 favorites to eliminate the Spurs who are +200 underdogs to reach the semifinals. The regular-season series was tied at 2-2 whereas each team has been successful on the home court. Denver made it to the postseason for the first time since 2013, while the Spurs didn’t miss the playoffs since 1997.
The San Antonio Spurs (48-34; 43-38-1 ATS) finished the regular season at the 2nd spot of the Southwest Division five games behind the Houston Rockets. They had some ups and downs which was expected after Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan. Also, the starting PG Dejounte Murray injured his knee in a pre-season and had to undergo season-ending surgery, so Gregg Popovich decided to set DeRozan at PG for most of the time. The Spurs had to make some adjustments, but they closed down the regular season in a strong fashion, winning 15 of their last 20 games overall. Also, they won 32 of their 41 games at home this term.
The Spurs’ offensive rating is the 7th-best in the league with 112.9 points per 100 possessions on 53.5 effective field goal percentage (6th in the league) and 39.2% shooting from beyond the arc (1st). The Spurs are making 24.8 assists (12th) and just 12.2 turnovers (1st) per 100 possessions while posting 45.2 rebounds (14th). The problems are on the other side of the ball, as the Spurs are allowing 111.2 points per 100 possessions (19th in the league) on 52.8 effective field goal percentage (20th).
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are leading the way for the Spurs this season. DeRozan is averaging 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game, while Aldridge is tallying 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. Rudy Guy is another veteran who adds depth to this San Antonio team, averaging 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a night. Derrick White is a key defensive stopper and will have a tall task to slow down Jamal Murray in this series. Marco Belinelli is adding 10.5 points off the bench, while Patty Mills is another member of the second unit who can make serious damage offensively.
On the other side, the Denver Nuggets (54-28; 42-40 ATS) won the Northwest Division title for the first time since 2010. The Nuggets are one of the most pleasant surprises after missing the playoffs last year with a loss at Minnesota in the regular-season finale. They fought for the top spot in the Western Conference all season long, but couldn’t keep the pace with the Warriors down the stretch. The Nuggets won just five of their last 11 games overall and were lucky to keep the No. 2 seed. Denver posted the best home record in the league, winning 34 of its 41 contests at Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets’ offensive rating is the 6th-best in the league with 113.0 points per 100 possessions on 52.7 effective field goal percentage (14th in the league) and 35.1% shooting from beyond the 3-point line (17th). The Nuggets are making 27.9 assists (2nd) and 13.7 turnovers (11th) while grabbing 47.3 rebounds per 100 possessions (3rd). They are surrendering 108.9 points per 100 possessions (10th in the league) on 52.1 effective field goal percentage (14th).
Nikola Jokic is leading the way for the Nuggets this season, averaging team-high 20.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while making 51.1% of his field goals. Jamal Murray is tallying 18.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.8 dimes per contest, shooting 43.7% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. Garry Harris is notching 12.9 points a night, while Paul Millsap is adding 12.6 points and 7.2 boards per outing. The Nuggets had a lot of injury problems during the regular season, but all players are ready for the playoffs.
Pick: San Antonio Spurs (+200)
This should be one of the most interesting matchups of the first round, as both San Antonio and Denver are so tough to beat on the home court. One road win could decide the semifinalist, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see all seven games. Also, both teams like to share the ball and find open shots, so this series will bring some entertaining basketball.
Nikola Jokic is a tremendous offensive force, but he’s arguably the weak spot at the defensive end, so Paul Millsap will have to do the best possible job on LaMarcus Aldridge. Also, the Nuggets lack experience which could be an issue, especially against the Spurs with Gregg Popovich at the helm. On the other hand, the Spurs are struggling defensively and will need to improve if they want to upset the Nuggets. It seems like a long shot, but I think it’s worth trying, so I’m backing the Spurs to defeat the Nuggets in seven games.
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