1. To The Mean
After being the better team through the first three games and the first quarter of Game 4, the Nuggets have turned it around and have dominated for much of the last seven quarters. The coaching staff could opt to believe that the first 13 quarters were closer to reality than the previous seven quarters and keep the gameplan the same. Bolstering their beliefs: the Spurs are due to shoot better, the Nuggets are due to shoot worse, the Spurs have been elite at home this year and the Nuggets have been mediocre on the road. Add it all together and Pop could decide that status quo is the best path forward.
2. Explosion Needed
Even though Jakob Poeltl has arguably been the most consistently impressive player on the Spurs this series, Pop may believe that he needs to change the starting lineup to make the offense more explosive and go with Rudy Gay in the starting five in place of Poeltl. If Denver has six or seven guys playing at a high level (like they have the last seven periods), it’s possible that the current starting lineup for the Spurs just doesn’t have the firepower to score the needed 120-plus points against these surging Nuggets. Forcing LaMarcus Aldridge to defend Nikola Jokic could also be a way to get his competitive juices flowing early.
3. Starting Desperation
To hide the pathetic bench play the Spurs have received this series, I thought the Game 4 adjustment would be to play the starters bigger minutes. Something along the lines of Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan 40 minutes, Poeltl and Bryn Forbes 36 minutes and Derrick White 32-34 minutes. That didn’t happen in Game 5 but it’s a valid option heading into Game 6. Those five players have been the five players performing at the highest level thus far for the good guys. Will Pop lean on his horses?
4. Believe The Numbers
If you are a believe in advanced stats, you wouldn’t agree with playing the starters more minutes — particularly DeRozan, Aldridge and Forbes. Why? There’s no proof that those guys have actually helped the Spurs win games this season. During the regular season, the Spurs were better with those three on the bench. The postseason has painted a similar picture. For example, the Spurs have outscored the Nuggets by 9.2 points per possession when DeRozan has been on the bench. When he’s been on the court, the Spurs have been outscored by a staggering 11.2 points per possession — for a 20.4-point swing. Taking this season as a whole, the Spurs have been best when their bench has been on the court. In fact, the Spurs have outscored opponents most when Davis Bertans has been on the court in both the regular season (7.6 points per 100 possessions) and the playoffs (4.0 points). So, does Pop give even more minutes to his bench in this home game due to the fact that the advanced stats say they are the true difference makers?