Denver Nuggets 115, San Antonio Spurs 112
Â Last night the new-look Denver Nuggets welcomed the San Antonio Spurs to the other side of the coin–a nod to the theory that games decided in the last minute tend to be 50-50 propositions.
This time, there were no Manu Ginobili heroics to pull the Spurs through, as the shooting guard took and missed two tough shots that could have pulled the Spurs even. For you at home, the night was either highly entertainingâ€”given the pace and flow of the gameâ€”or extremely frustrating, again, given the pace and flow of the game.
Giving up 115 points on over 50 percent shooting from the field and the three-point line, and yet somehow having an opportunity at the end, will do that.
But what the game had in entertainment value, it lacked in context. At this point in the season games, recaps, and opinions are given with the playoffs in mind and in this game there were no playoff implications. This game stands alone to be enjoyed or lamented for what it is, and then left behind in muck of an 82-game season.
There might be some concern about the defense. But understand that this is what these Denver Nuggets can do at home when catching a team unprepared.
And to an extent thatâ€™s what these Spurs were, as the Nuggets 21-2 edge in fast break point can attest to. Without Duncan there to quarterback the defense verbally and enforce it physically, the rotations just arenâ€™t as sharp and the players found themselves that step or two out of position that accounts for the difference between a tough shot and a foul (39 free throw attempts for the Nuggets against a team that is the best in the NBA at avoiding such violations).
With limited film and no experience against these Nuggets, Denver is catching teams by surprise. A novelty factor that should wear off as teams get a second and third look at them.
Certainly you donâ€™t worry about this team as a potential nightmare matchup because in all likelihood these two teams will never meet in the playoffs. Because as much of a story as this teamâ€™s unity without Carmelo Anthony has been, is anyone outside of Denver honestly convinced they can take out one of the Westâ€™s top four team?
What you worry about in games like these are injuries; the Spurs escaped with none and may have gotten some good news on the Duncan front. You keep a close eye on Tiago Splitter, who started strong but was winded early (have to get that game conditioning down, fortunately there is time).
And you worry about the bench.
Because outside of Gary Neal, the second unit was absolutely torched. With Al Harrington doing his Steve Novak as Matt Bonner impression (5-6 from the three-point line), Raymond Felton picking up where he left off against the Spurs in New York, and J.R. Smith doing what J.R. Smith does every so often, the second unit could have used more than one player stepping up last night.
After their last home game, Popovich put this group on notice. He expects more consistency; he expects more of what Gary Neal brought (25 points in 24 minutes). Mark my words, these playoffs are for Neal. Before the offseason comes, Neal will have won the Spurs at least one playoff game.
Outside of that, Matt Bonner simply needs to keep shooting his way out of a slump, George Hill needs to keep fighting through those screens, and Tiago Splitter needs to extend his 15 minutes of fame, or at least not get winded by the 16th minute. The basketball world doesnâ€™t wait for Tim Duncan to get healthy. Portland is next.