Advanced Scouting: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs

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Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs 8:00 CST January 16, 2011

The Spurs lead their season series against the Denver Nuggets 2-0. However, one could argue they have been lucky to win both games. The Spurs won the first game on a charge call in the last second and the second matchup required a 29-14 fourth quarter to seal a 109-103 victory. Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony each missed one game against the Spurs, but figure to be at full strength this time around. (Martin may be less than 100%, but he is expected to go). The Spurs will also be missing Matt Bonner, who made 3 of 4 from downtown in each matchup.

Defending Carmelo Anthony is a key component of my Nuggets scouting report. Before the second matchup, I reviewed the Spurs effectiveness against Anthony. (He was a late scratch for that game.) Carmelo figures to be the central piece of the Nuggets offense once again.

Against Denver this season, Parker has headed the pick-and-roll a combined 43 times, resulting in 46 points. Ginobili has only led 16 pick-and-rolls, leading to 17 points. The Spurs pick-and-roll ballhandler has set up teammates nearly twice as frequently as he has finished the play himself. This ball movement has paid off well for the Spurs when facing the Nuggets.

In the last meeting, Gary Neal hit 5 of 7 from downtown and the Spurs went 14 of 28 from range as a team. This high success rate is sure to fade, and with Matt Bonner out, it does become less advantageous to look for the 3-point shot, but the Spurs still have plenty of outside weapons. Neal, Jefferson, Manu and Hill are all reliable kick out options.

Another important aspect of this game will be the matchup between Tim Duncan and Nene. Nene continues to improve every year and has become a dynamic post option for Denver. Nene’s tremendous success rate of 1.29 points per possession in the post place him in the 97th percentile. Few players are more efficient and his ability to create in the post can make him deadly.

Since 2008-09, Nene has scored 39 points in 38 post possessions against Duncan. Duncan has scored 71 points on 87 possessions himself. Nene utilizes his athleticism and strength; generally making good, high percentage decisions from the post. He can struggle identifying timely double teams.

As discussed previously, getting Nene in foul trouble is an attainable and worthwhile strategy for the Spurs on the offensive end. Duncan had a big game the first time these teams met, but Denver contained him in the second meeting.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Denver: 3.59 (7th)
San Antonio: 7.88 (1st)

Key Player Statistics (courtesy of 82games.com (effective January 6, 2011) and basketballvalue.com (effective January 11, 2011):

PlayerFraction of teams minutesPER minus Counterpart PEROn court +/-per 48 minutesOff court +/-per 48 minutes2 Year Adjusted +/-
Afflalo0.74-1.11.44.4-1.6
Anthony0.5910.23.10.94.7
Billups0.591.42.81.4-4.9
Nene0.584.44.7-1.37.2
Lawson0.522.61.13.4-1.9
Smith0.491.35.7-1.12.3
Harrington0.48-7.92.42-1.6
Williams0.36-7.1-0.83.9-0.2
Forbes0.23-7.3-54.4N/A
Andersen0.16-2.81.62.35.1
Martin0.080.69.11.6-1.5

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Williams, Nene -28 in 231 minutes (-5.8 per 48 minutes)
Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Harrington, Nene +10 in 91 minutes (+5.3 per 48)
Lawson, Afflalo, Anthony, Williams, Nene +27 in 66 minutes (+19.6 per 48)
Lawson, Afflalo, Anthony, Harrington, Nene +34 in 29 minutes (+56.3 per 48)

Conclusion

In their past 10 games, the Denver Nuggets have outscored opponents by an average score of 110-100. Despite all the trade rumors circulating, the Nuggets are relatively healthy and playing well. San Antonio will be hurt by the absence of Bonner, but should be helped by home court advantage. Denver will also be playing the second of back-to-back games tonight, which should only increase the Spurs chances. The Spurs may have enjoyed some luck in winning the first two games against Denver, but they will still be clear favorites in this one.

  • DorieStreet

    One of the teams that man-for-man can match up with the Spurs at each spot. Affalo has come into his own–once Melo leaves, the Nuggets will become his team. Keeping Affalo and Lawson in check is the key to a victory I believe, even if Melo goes for 30 points.

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  • Hobson13

    This should be a pretty big test for the Spurs since the Nuggs are finally healthy and actually playing good ball. A fully healthy Denver team is cetainly one of the more talented ballclubs in the league and definitely one of the most explosive offenses. This game will CERTAINLY test our defensive improvements. The Nuggets have scored 132, 130, and 127 points in their last 3 games. I kind of expect this one to come down to the wire unless Denver has a really bad road game (which is possible when you consider their road record is 5-12).

  • betsyduncan

    I fully expect our team to eat up those ‘Nougats’ this evening! Denver’s team ‘disunity’ (ie; all those fruits and nuts who make up their team) is in stark contrast to our team’s unity. Let’s take advantage of that!

  • spurcase42

    It will be a tough game. It is hard to beat a good team three times in a row and Denver is a good team.

    Maybe Tiago, our rookie who can hardly get into most games can have another great game.

  • TD = BEST EVER

    Bonner is out tonight – So Tiago should get some extended play. We will see how he responds to a poor outing last game. If he can just stay near the basket he should be able to draw a few charges tonight as Denver usually drives hard to the basket. But they usually drive with their heads down. So lets go and beat Denver aka. my brother Fav team for the 3rd time so he can EAT IT!!!! lol

  • betsyduncan

    I know, spurcase42. I just don’t see the Nougats playing for each other lately, like our guys almost always seem to do. I’d LOVE to see Tiago get some good minutes/results against their bigs, myself. I’m sure that Timmy is watching the Bears’ beatdown of the ‘Hawks and I am hoping it energizes him tonight! [and by ‘fruits and nuts’, I meant the ‘crazies’ on that team; namely, Melo and JSmith—since that is what a ‘nougat’ comprises]

  • rob

    I’m expecting a close game until the end of 3rd, start of 4th. Spurs 105 – Nuggets 92

    Bonner out might/might not mean minutes for Tiago depending on how close the score.

    A significant lead situation for Spurs probably sees Tiago with some time. A close game probably doesn’t allow Tiago on the court. If the Spurs want to win this, Tiago on the court in a close game deminishes those chances.

  • SpurredOn

    I’d not consider or call the Spurs’ two wins over Denver “lucky.” Competitive for sure, but the only luck would’ve occurred had Denver won the first meeting after the inbounds turnover by the Spurs. SA won despite almost giving it away, in part because they’re the better team, even while playing a back to back on the road.

    Our defense was poor for a half and atrocious for a quarter last time these teams played. Perhaps our guys weren’t as focused with Melo out or just had a bad night but it was the bench play on both ends from Quinn, Splitter, Neal and Bonner that brought the club from behind in the 4th. With Bonner out tonight, I wonder if Quinn and/or Splitter get more minutes in this specific match-up.

  • Scott Sereday

    @SpurredOn

    Lucky might not be a fair term… All games require some luck (meaning results outside of the Spurs control). The games against Denver certainly had more luck than most games.

    Just a few examples of this “luck”. Although, San Antonio deserved the charge call at the end of the game, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it go the other way. Since the referee’s action is outside of the Spurs control, I would classify this as luck from the Spurs perspective. The Spurs were also lucky to face Denver at less than 100%. Perhaps a healthy Nuggets team wins one or both games. Of course, Denver was also lucky at times, their “luck” was just not as obvious and easy to point out.

    I know most sports fans don’t view luck the way I do, but every shot takes some luck. Mark Price and Shaquille O’Neal both require luck and skill to make a free throw. As good as Price is, he can’t control his shots well enough to absolutely guarantee a make, so he needs a little luck. However, he requires nowhere near as much luck as Shaq does.

    When I watch games, I try to focus on the quality of the shot from the player’s perspective. If Matt Bonner misses an open three, I consider this a good Spurs possession in the long run (unless there is something else unusual about the shot or play).

    Basically, the Spurs played well enough to win against Denver both times, but they didn’t play well enough to completely control the outcome.

    If the Spurs are “lucky” enough to win a championship. I don’t think any Spurs fan will care if it is luck or not. Sometimes, the more unexpected a result, the more sweet it is.

  • Bruno

    Very hard game but we can win if Manu and TP play both well. Hope to see Splitter show his talent again vs denver

  • SpurredOn

    @Scott – we do view luck a bit differently which is, obviously, okay. I do remind that the Spurs were not full strength in either Nuggets game. No James Anderson, and George Hill missed the latter while playing injured in the first meeting.

    I’ll certainly take a night of luck but would rather have a season of being better and healthy. I think it wins out in the long run. Either way, Go Spurs Go!

  • betsyduncan

    Nicely said, Scott. I don’t care about luck, just consistency. But, hey, if the ball bounces our way, I’ll take it!

  • Matt in OC

    Senario:
    Splitter has Melo boxed out while the ball rings around the hoop. Melo jumps up, and tips it in.

    If Splitter grab the rebound of the rim it’s a goaltend(?) or otherwise a foul.

    Why can’t the offensive player go for the tip in, while the defensive player will get whistled.

  • Matt in OC

    “Why can* the offensive player”

  • Matt in OC

    War Splitter rocking the rim and his butt bone on the same dunk!

  • Bruno

    Splitter much huge for minutes in the end of the game LOL

  • Matt in OC

    You got it Bruno, gotta love it when a rook goes that hard in garbage time. Hope only his ego is busted after that play.

    Dude, Quinn annoyed tonight… Why didn’t he pass to an open 33 (forgive me for not knowing kids name since he is on a brand new 10 day)

    Quinn is a ball hog which doesn’t mesh with me…

  • r.l.manuel

    Ginobli is a baaaad man,
    that layup was sic…
    GO SPURS GO
    GO SPURS GO
    GO SPURS GO
    35-6
    Parker,TD,and the rest
    including Tiago(let the body hit the floor)Splitter
    played a great freakin game