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San Antonio Spurs: Analyzing potential playoff opponents

PORTLAND, OR - FEBRUARY 7: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs stands for the National Anthem before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on February 7, 2019 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - FEBRUARY 7: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs stands for the National Anthem before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on February 7, 2019 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs are wrestling with a mess of teams for a playoff berth, but what is the best case scenario when it is all said and done?

Perhaps putting the cart before the horse here, but smart money says the San Antonio Spurs find a way to clinch a playoff berth before the end of the 82-game regular season stretch. The Spurs are currently sitting in the 8th spot in a loaded Western Conference that has seen LeBron James fighting for his playoff life and positions 7-through-13 all still in play.

However, history supports the notion that a Gregg Popovich-led squad will find a way to get the job done, especially with 2 stars that are playing to their usual level and a young cast that continues to prove they belong. Let’s now see where the Spurs best fit in the playoff race:

An 8th spot will most likely get you a date with the Golden State Warriors and their starting lineup that All-Star Klay Thompson believes could be the USA Olympic team. Needless to say, this is realistically the only team in the league that no other squad hopes to be matched up against.

Looking at the remaining possibilities, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers and Rockets.

An In-State series with the Rockets will essentially mitigate the crowd issues for both opposing teams, but the firepower of the Rockets mixed with their athletic big men and veteran players makes them quite the challenge. As James Harden is gunning for a second MVP trophy and presenting issues with his ability to draw fouls and Chris Paul salivating at a chance versus the inexperienced Spurs point guards, perhaps avoiding them is not a bad result.

The Thunder and Blazers very much cause the same headaches. The respective duos of Russell WestbrookPaul George and Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum create backcourt issues that the Spurs have yet to show they can solve. Portland leads the season series 2-1 this year, winning by double digits in both games.

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San Antonio holds a 2-1 advantage over the Thunder, but one game took two overtimes and the other was when Oklahoma City was devoid of MVP-candidate Paul George. The Blazers and Thunder also both have stretch-bigs and powerful centers that only extrapolates the Spurs’ lack of depth in the front court.

Denver is San Antonio’s best shot to advance to the second round. The Spurs lead the season series 2-1.  In the one loss, the Spurs all but finished the comeback in Denver, losing 99-102. The biggest positive in facing Denver is simply the lack of experience. The Nuggets have watched the postseason from home for the last 5 years and their young stars Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris all have yet to lace up in the postseason.

San Antonio, giving up only 47 points in the paint can best neutralize Jokic. Conversely, the Nuggets average just over 111 points per game while shooting over 31 threes-per-game, rely heavily on their inexperienced shooters in a series that Gregg Popovich will surely slow down, having much time to plan to adjust throughout a series.

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Lack of experience, heavy reliability on three point shots and only one full-fledged star makes the Denver Nuggets the best matchup for the San Antonio Spurs.

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