Spurs and Nuggets 3-point shooting a tale of two extremes
AT&T CENTER — When a basketball game is decided by a single point like in the San Antonio Spurs’ 100-99 win over the Denver Nuggets, there are endless things available to point to as the deciding factor. Luckily for us, we don’t have that problem. While the margin of victory was razor thin, the difference in shooting from 3-point range was anything but.
Not that we should be all that surprised. These two teams are effectively on the opposite ends of the perimeter shooting spectrum. The Spurs currently sit at third in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, converting at a 38 percent clip. The Nuggets, on the other hand, are 24th in the league at 34 percent from beyond the arc.
Against Denver the Spurs shot 10-of-15 from the perimeter, led by Danny Green’s 6-of-8 performance. All six of Green’s 3s came in the first half, tying a Spurs franchise record for 3-point field goals in a half. The rest of San Antonio’s 3-point field goals came via Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Cory Joseph.
“Every time I penetrated,” Parker said, “I found [Green] and he made some big shots for us to come back in the second quarter when we were down 14.”
Like they have all season, San Antonio’s 3s came by design. Good ball movement from the Spurs resulted in an off-balance defense and, eventually, an open shooter on the perimeter. Oftentimes it was Green, who has an uncanny ability to find the right passing lanes as he floats along the perimeter.
“[Green] took over there and really got us back into the game when it started to slip away,” Tim Duncan said after the game. “He shot the ball really well as he has all season long.”
Denver, meanwhile, missed all 10 of their attempts from the perimeter. In actuality, the Nuggets really only missed eight legit 3-point attempts, as one was a half-court heave at the end of the third quarter and another was a sloppy toss up as the shot clock expired early in the fourth. Either way, there’s a significant difference in hitting 10 3s and not converting a single one.
Defensively for the Spurs, you can say that their 3-point defense was by design as well. Or, at least, with the scouting report fresh on their minds. The San Antonio defenders closed out hard on Denver’s better shooters like Danilo Gallinari (38 percent from 3 on the season) and Ty Lawson (37 percent), while not closing out as aggressively and protecting against the drive on wings like Andre Iguodala (31 percent on the year) and Corey Brewer (30 percent).
How much the Spurs had to do with the Nuggets missing all of their long distance attempts is uncertain, but when the difference in the game comes down to one shot not going in, any little bit helps. The Spurs defended the Nuggets well on some of those attempts and others were missed shots, plain and simple. There’s something about being lucky and good in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.
Thanks to winning the points in the paint battle by a significant margin, 68-36, Denver nearly stole one in San Antonio despite their putrid perimeter shooting. There are plenty of plays and statistics we can point to as the difference in the Spurs’ one-point win over the Nuggets. But with a gulf so wide, it’s hard not to be drawn to San Antonio pitching a shutout from the 3-point line.