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San Antonio Spurs: 3 Reasons why they would upset Denver in the first round

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs is guarded by Torrey Craig #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. 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. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs is guarded by Torrey Craig #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. 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. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 4: Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots past Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets and Isaiah Thomas #0 at AT&T Center on March 4, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 4: Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots past Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets and Isaiah Thomas #0 at AT&T Center on March 4, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs look like they’re safely in the playoff picture, and the Denver Nuggets would be a dream matchup for them in the first round.

After the rough Rodeo Road Trip it looked like the San Antonio Spurs would be clawing for their playoff lives during the home stretch of the regular season.

Since then, they have bounced back to win four games in a row, including an elusive road victory over a much-improved Hawks team, and the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Los Angeles Lakers have all essentially fallen out of contention leaving the Spurs and Clippers to fight for the seventh and eighth playoff seeds.

Now that San Antonio can focus on their seeding instead of worrying about whether they will miss the postseason, they should be angling to take on the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

Here are three reasons why San Antonio could pull off a first round upset against Denver and move on to the Conference Semifinals this year.

Next: Season Series

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 4: Malik Beasley #25 of the Denver Nuggets handles the ball while Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs plays defense during the game on March 4, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 4: Malik Beasley #25 of the Denver Nuggets handles the ball while Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs plays defense during the game on March 4, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season Series

The season series between the Nuggets and Spurs is fairly tight, but it does provide some reason for San Antonio to be hopeful that they can pull off a potential first round upset.

The Spurs are 2-1 this season against Denver with each team holding serve at home.

San Antonio has outscored the Nuggets by 6 points over the three meetings, which have all been relatively tight contests.

San Antonio’s most recent meeting against the Nuggets looked like it was going to be a blowout victory in the Spurs’ favor until Denver got incredibly hot from deep and nearly stole a win at the AT&T Center.

Related Story. Playoff Scenarios for the San Antonio Spurs

The season series results should be taken with a grain of salt considering Paul Millsap missed two of those three games, but he was extremely ineffective in the most recent matchup between the two teams.

The Spurs’ trip to the Pepsi Center in early April will tell us a lot about how these two teams match up if each squad is at full strength.

Even if San Antonio ends up splitting the season series, that should give them confidence that they are at least even with a team that will likely end up as the number one or two seed in the West.

Next: Playoff Experience

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a play during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a play during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

Playoff Experience

The San Antonio Spurs have seen a lot of roster turnover in the past year, but they still have a bunch of quality veterans who have played a lot of postseason basketball.

LaMarcus Aldridge has made the postseason eight times in his career including three appearances in a Spurs uniform, Patty Mills has been in the playoffs in all seven of his years in San Antonio and two years in Portland, DeMar DeRozan made five playoff appearances in Toronto, and Marco Belinelli also has a wealth of postseason experience during his 12-year career.

Related Story. 2019 NBA Draft: San Antonio Spurs Frontcourt Prospects

Gregg Popovich also has more playoff games under his belt than any other active coach.

Outside of Paul Millsap, most of Denver’s top players have not seen much action in the playoffs, and Mike Malone will be coaching his first postseason series this season.

That advantage of being in the playoffs before could help the Spurs steal a game early in a potential series if the Nuggets come out a little nervous under the bright lights.

Next: Matchups

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

Matchups

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During the season series between the two teams, Denver has had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge.

He’s scored at least 24 points in all three of their matchups against one another, and Aldridge has shot 50% or better in each contest.

DeMar DeRozan has had two very good performances against the Nuggets, and he had a respectable line in the Spurs’ three-point loss in Denver.

San Antonio also showed they could completely shut down Nikola Jokic in their first meeting this season where he scored just 4 points on 1-for-5 shooting while only grabbing 4 rebounds.

The Spurs have held Denver to just under 103 points per game in their three matchups, which is well below their season average of 112.1, and the Nuggets were also held below their season-long offensive rating in all three games.

I think the combination of San Antonio’s superior playoff experience and their specific gameplan for slowing down Denver’s high-flying offense gives them a great chance to pull off the upset if they do meet in the first round.

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Next. Spurs: Three lineup combinations that work best

Whether the Nuggets end up with the one or two seed, the Spurs should be trying to position themselves to match up with Denver in the postseason.

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