The loser will go home when the San Antonio Spurs battle the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their first round playoff series on Saturday night.
The Spurs outscored the Nuggets 30-18 in the fourth quarter to pull away and beat them 120-103 in Game 6 last Thursday. Nikola Jokic shined with 43 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and two steals on 19 of 30 shooting and 2 of 6 from beyond the arc but LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay countered his efforts, combining for 70 points on 70.9 true shooting percentage while turning the ball over just once.
A similar level of efficiency from Aldridge, DeRozan and Gay would help the Spurs advance in this series. Eight of the nine players the Spurs used in Game 6 scored at least six points while the Nuggets had only four. Offensive balance is one of the keys to this game and the Nuggets won’t win unless they get production out of their supporting players.
Spurs Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Nuggets
*Notates expected starter
C: Jakob Poeltl*, Donatas Motiejunas
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge*, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham
SF: DeMar DeRozan*, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans
SG: Bryn Forbes*, Marco Belinelli, Lonnie Walker IV
PG: Derrick White*, Patty Mills
Facing elimination in Game 6, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich decided to keep Davis Bertans out. Bertans, who made 42.9 percent of his 3-point shots in the regular season, didn’t play a single minute. He played just six minutes in Game 3 but he had received between 16 and 20 minutes in the other four games.
Not seeing Bertans on the court at all was surprising and it could be because Popovich doesn’t want him dealing with the size and physicality of the Nuggets’ frontcourt and the speed of their backcourt. Bertans is just 3-for-11 from downtown in this series (27.3 percent), attempting just 2.2 3-pointers per game and that probably played a part in his absence as well.
The Spurs won last Thursday so it could be said that keeping Bertans out of the game worked but I can’t agree with him not playing at all while Patty Mills got 25 minutes and Marco Belinelli had 20. Mills the seven 3-point shots he attempted and didn’t play solid defense and while Belinelli scored nine points on 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, he struggled on the defensive end.
Bertans is a better defender than Mills and Belinelli and he can provide spacing, even when his shots aren’t falling, so he should at least get a chance to prove himself in a game that can come down to the final possession.
The Nuggets have Nikola Jokic, the best player in the series and a deeper roster but the Spurs have proven to be a balanced team with a head coaching edge and they have more playoff experience. Home court advantage might give the Nuggets a slight boost but this will be a close contest.