After splitting the first two games of the series in Denver, the San Antonio Spurs will look to take care of business at home and take a 2-1 lead in the first round.
The San Antonio Spurs gutted out a tight victory with some impressive performances in the clutch against the Nuggets in Game One, but they were unable to hold on to a big lead in Game Two which would’ve vaulted them to 2-0 in the series as they head back to the AT&T Center for Games Three and Four.
While that loss in Game Two was tough to swallow, the Spurs are still in great position to move on to the second round after getting a win on the road to begin the series.
With two games of data to look back on, we have a better idea of the strategies that each team will employ moving forward and which players will need to have big games in order to secure a victory.
Each squad will try to improve on what is working well and make adjustments to avoid falling to a 1-2 deficit in this series as we head to San Antonio.
Here are three aspects of the matchup that need to go right for the Spurs to pick up a win in their first home game of the 2019 postseason:
Next: Maintaining Home Court Advantage
Maintaining Home Court Advantage
The simplest way for the Spurs to take a 2-1 lead in this series is to dominate at home as they have all year long.
Winning on the road was going to be San Antonio’s toughest task in the first round, but they’ve already cleared that hurdle by picking up a victory in Denver in Game One.
Now all the Spurs have to do is take care of business in their three home games at the AT&T Center to move on to the second round.
San Antonio was a vastly different team at home during the regular season where they went 32-9 while only winning 16 of their 41 road games.
The Nuggets have similar home-road splits as their record on the road was under .500 despite securing the second seed in a fiercely competitive Western Conference.
The Spurs won each of their home matchups against Denver during the regular season, and they’ll be looking to keep that trend going through the first round in a rockin’ AT&T Center.
Next: Better Contributions from Role Players
Better Contributions from Role Players
Outside of Derrick White‘s excellence during the first two games of the series in Denver, San Antonio’s role players have been inconsistent.
Bryn Forbes and Rudy Gay played well in Game One with 15 and 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, respectively, but neither of them came up big in Game Two as DeRozan, Aldridge, and White were the only players to score in double digits.
The Spurs’ bench had been a strength of theirs all year long, but none of San Antonio’s reserves stepped up to take the offensive load off of the shoulders of their stars.
One of the NBA’s oldest truisms is that role players tend to play better at home, and the Spurs’ home-road splits this season support that argument.
Now that San Antonio is back in a comfortable environment at home, I’d expect multiple role players to perform well after struggling for most of the first two games in Denver.
Next: Consistency from Aldridge and DeRozan
Consistency from Aldridge and DeRozan
LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan have each undergone some postseason disappointment at various points in those careers, and their playoff demons haunted them in Game One even though the Spurs came out victorious.
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San Antonio’s two stars combined to score just 33 points (Derozan: 18 points, Aldridge: 15 points) in Game One on a combined 12-of-36 from the floor (DeRozan: 6-for-17, Aldridge: 6-for-19) during the first game of this series.
However, the duo was able to bounce back in Game Two while many of the Spurs’ role players shrunk under the bright lights in Denver.
DeRozan dropped 31 points on an efficient 11-of-19 from the floor and went 9-for-9 from the free throw line while grabbing 7 boards and only turning the ball over once.
Aldridge’s shot wasn’t quite as hot as DeMar’s going 8-for-20 from the field, but he still managed to put up 24 points while getting to the free throw line 10 times, and he also contributed 8 rebounds and 3 assists with only 1 turnover.
The Spurs need steadier performances from their stars as the series continues.
While DeRozan has put up pretty similar numbers at home and on the road this season, LaMarcus scored 3.4 more points per game at the AT&T Center this year with a true shooting percentage of 59.1% at home versus 55.8% on the road.
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Hopefully a return home will help Aldridge score more efficiently while DeMar is able to repeat his stellar Game Two performance in the third game of this first round series.