The San Antonio Spurs took care of business in Game One against the Denver Nuggets, proving that the team knows how to win once it matters.
Last night, Game 1 of the first-round playoff match between the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets took place at the Pepsi Center. In the regular season, Denver won the majority of the match ups, but with Gregg Popovich as a legendary “chess master” when it comes to coaching, the Spurs had been favored by many.
The Spurs came out seeking redemption from their regular season road game record of 16-25. Yesterday, the Spurs had to prove to Pop and themselves that they know how to turn up the heat when it comes to the post season.
Rudy Regulates: Rudy Gay came off the bench ready to contribute to the Spurs’ early-game tempo. He added defensive rebounds, pull up shots, assists, driving layups and launched some long-distance three-pointers. Rudy helped keep the Spurs in the game by being effective on the offensive spectrum.
What’s a whistle?: When Kawhi Leonard was last in a Spurs uniform for the playoffs, he was injured by Zaza Pachulia who stepped in his landing space after he came down from shooting. This was controversial because many people feel it was a dirty play but nonetheless a play that should never go uncalled. Beer goggles may be a playful banter about hindering views, but last night, Rudy Gay & LaMarcus Aldridge encountered a similar incident.
Opponents stepping in their landing space causing them to land awkwardly, without a call made. It’s obvious that the officials in this game forgot to what a whistle is by missing these calls. It’s concerning for Spurs since we’ve seen this happen before.
Composure on Calls: Officials missing these calls could’ve easily caused Popovich to lose his cool. Popovich was ejected twice in the last few weeks of the regular season for officials neglecting calls that raised tension for onlookers. Pop wasn’t wrong for his outburst and the officials weren’t right for their lack of officiating. Popovich maintained his Zen while officials omitted their whistles.
White’s Flight: Spurs point guard Derrick White took flight in the Mile-High City over power forward Paul Millsap! In the third quarter, with just over six minutes to go, Derrick White grabbed a defensive rebound, drove down the lane and took off over a 6-foot-8 Millsap! White’s flight over Millsap will go into the posterizing playoff picks for NBA history!
Rodeo Redemption: It’s no secret that the Spurs have struggled on the road throughout the season. The infamous Rodeo Road Trip was hard to watch. Losing to the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers and Brooklyn Nets was a tough setback.
However, they did comeback by having a 9-game winning streak beating opponents with Denver being a part of that list of those defeated. Denver, being the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, won home court advantage. After losing to the Nuggets the last time the Spurs played in Pepsi Center, winning Game 1 was a rodeo redemption to show that the Spurs are qualified playoff contenders on the road.
Double D gets a Double D: DeMar DeRozan’s performance in the first game was nothing short of spectacular: 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, DeRozan showed up and showed out. DeRozan was benched in the essential portions of the game last year in a Raptors uniform, but this season as a Spur, he demonstrated why he deserves to be on the court. DeRozan shut down any doubt that his game isn’t adequate on a playoff level.
Legacy Ladder: Finally, one of the most memorable topics about last night’s game. Popovich added yet another win to his coaching record. Seems typical though. Popovich is a marvelous coach with an unbelievable mentality, five championship rings, 22 consecutive playoff appearances and you can now add 1,413 to his list of phenomenal numbers.
1,413 is the amount of wins the coach with the most wins in NBA history has. That number falls under one of many accolades for Popovich. We are living in an era of greatness. Popovich greatness! This is a win that matters most on many different levels.
Taking the victory last night with a multitude of contributing factors feels like a much-needed accomplishment. However, we do have 3 more games to win in order to get to the next round.
As the Spurs prepare for this long series, all the components that came together for last night’s win is confirmation that the Spurs have the ingredients to avoid an early round exit in the playoffs, when it matters.