Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets – Game #19

The San Antonio Spurs take a two-game winning streak into tonight’s contest against the Denver Nuggets. Last game, the Spurs notched an impressive victory over the Boston Celtics, with multiple players performing very well.

Two seasons ago, the Nuggets defeated the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. The seventh-seeded Spurs pushed the second-seeded Nuggets to Game 7 but Denver was able to prevail in the deciding game. Last season, the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This season, the Nuggets haven’t started as strongly as many expected. They have a record of 11-7, just one game ahead of the 10-8 Spurs. That said, Denver has won five straight games and will be an extremely difficult challenge for the Spurs tonight.

Derrick White Injury Update

Derrick White is back for the second time … almost. Earlier this season, he returned following offseason toe surgery — only to injure the same toe in his first game back. While he’s out for tonight’s game against the Nuggets, he has been cleared to play Saturday night versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Last time White returned, head coach Gregg Popovich brought him off the bench and basically gave him Devin Vassell’s minutes. Considering the rookie has been playing well as of late, it’ll be interesting if Popovich goes the same route or tries to continue finding minutes for Vassell.

Expect Popovich to limit White’s playing time to around 20 to 25 minutes once he returns. Due to how his previous return went, the coaching staff may opt for the lower end of that range.

Nikola Jokic is Playing Better Than Ever

Two seasons ago, Nikola Jokic was the best player in the series between these two teams. These days, the 25-year-old has become even better and is undoubtedly an MVP candidate.

Jokic is averaging 25.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.9 assists in 35.5 minutes per game. It’s truly one of the most well-rounded seasons for a center the NBA has ever seen.

Spurs vs. Nuggets – How the Spurs Can Win

Slowing Jokic will be San Antonio’s major concern. LaMarcus Aldridge will be the first defender the Spurs throw against Jokic. However, Aldridge hasn’t been a strong defender on the perimeter this season, which could become a problem due to Jokic’s three-point range.

San Antonio’s best hope of slowing Jokic is Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl defended Jokic well in the playoffs and has the tools to at least make him work. However, the Spurs will need Poeltl to stay out of foul trouble — which has been an ongoing issue for him when going up against elite centers.

Drew Eubanks, who has returned after being sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, would most likely be San Antonio’s third option to defend Jokic.