Spurs @ Nuggets Give-and-Go Preview

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It seemed like just yesterday that the Spurs and Nuggets faced-off, which isn’t too far off, because it was actually the day before yesterday. Yes, we’re square in the middle of a home-and-away matchup between San Antonio in Denver. This puts us in the awkward position of trying to simultaneously recap Wednesday night’s game and preview Friday night’s tilt. To help with all the awkwardness, David Walker of Roundball Mining Company stopped by to chat with us about the Nuggets.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: So the Spurs and Nuggets face-off on Friday night in Denver, but they just played each other Wednesday night in San Antonio. What happened in that second half on Wednesday night for the Nuggets and is it something that they can carry over to Friday?

David Walker, Roundball Mining Company: I’d say what happened was more or less a Spurs team that took their foot off the gas up 20 and a Nuggets team desperate to prove their worth to their coach. While the run did come as a blitzkrieg of points, I never felt as though the Spurs were in danger of losing the game so I don’t think we see any carryover into Friday’s game. Momentum is hard to maintain quarter to quarter, much less game to game.

AM: So it wasn’t anything that the Nuggets did specifically that stifled the Spurs offense?

DW: They didn’t really change anything specific from the first half to the second other than just make make their rotations a little crisper. San Antonio seemed to just get bogged down after the first option fell apart, the secondary action wasn’t really there as much as it was early in the game.

AM: Give us a brief profile of what Denver’s season has been like. I’m sure most Spurs fans haven’t been keeping up too much with what’s been happening with the Nuggets.

DW: It’s been a pretty crazy ride of widely oscillating expectations. With Andre Iguodala and George Karl gone and a rookie head coach taking over, it was hard to know how hard Denver would fall from 57 wins. Then the season started and five game losing streaks would follow eight game winning streaks and no one knew what to think. Then JaVale McGee went down for the year, followed by the news that Danilo Gallinari was not returning either, then Nate Robinson went down, Andre Miller left the team, Ty Lawson missed about a month worth of games and that was the season. Things were looking disastrously bad about a month ago when it seemed as thought the team had quit on the coach but games like the one Wednesday night versus the Spurs, close losses where Denver showed fight, has inspired optimism for next year.

AM: What’s your opinion of Brian Shaw?

DW: I’d say I’m pretty ambivalent on him at this point. Even at its most healthy, the roster was never ideal for his vision of what he wants the Nuggets to end up being, too much of George Karl lingers in their mentality. And seeing as, due to injuries, Anthony Randolph and Jan Vesely are forced into playing rotation minutes, I can’t objectively use this iteration of the Nuggets to damn his coaching ability. What he does with the next couple of years, when he will have a hand in building the team, will be telling. The fact that the team hasn’t quit on the season says something, though.

AM: What should the Brian Shaw Nuggets look like?

DW: A team that goes from the inside, out. He wants a back-to-the-basket type player who can dominate the paint and shooters who can exploit the defense packing it in to defend the rim. He also wants a defense that doesn’t have to rely on rotations or double teams, a lengthy squad that can switch one through four with ease and a rim-protecting center. So, basically, Indiana.

AM: Now, other than the Spurs simply being really good, what does San Antonio do that Denver really struggles with, either offensively or defensively?

DW: Well, just about everything. Denver can’t keep the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls out of the paint, Lawson and Aaron Brooks get smushed by any screener bigger than 6’4″. Furthermore, their weak-side help is almost always nonexistent. This is death when dealing with Tony Parker. Offensively, Denver can’t really take advantage of the holes in the Spurs pack-the-paint defense, they don’t have enough good 3-point shooters. It was telling that Denver had the most success when Lawson, Brooks, and Randy Foye were on the floor, a small-ball unit that can at least manufacture some modicum of spacing.

AM: Okay, last thing before I let you go. Give me one random prediction for Friday night’s game, something that has nothing to do with the final score.

DW: Timofey Mozgov will attempt two more 3s. And he’ll hit at least one of them. Take that to the bank.

AM: Dear lord I hope you’re right.

Thanks for the time, David. I appreciate it.

DW: No problem, thanks for having me Andrew.

The Spurs and Nuggets tip-off at 8 pm central time on Fox Sports Southwest. For Spurs fans in the Denver area looking for tickets to Friday night’s game, visit our friends at TiqIQ.