The San Antonio Spurs head back to Denver with the series tied at two games apiece. Here are some keys for the Spurs moving forward as they try to pull off the upset.
The San Antonio Spurs took a 2-1 series lead thanks to a dominant second half in Game Three, and it looked like they had the second-seed Nuggets on the ropes for a historic upset.
Unfortunately, the Spurs did not play well in Game Four and Denver was able to take back home court advantage for the series as they head back to Colorado for two of the final three games of the first round.
We’ve seen each team make some major adjustments as this series has swung back and forth with each team alternating wins, including a starting lineup change that paid major dividends for the Nuggets in Game Four.
The Spurs will have to come up with some adjustments of their own after a dismal performance on Saturday afternoon if they want to avoid falling down 3-2 in this series.
Here’s how San Antonio can steal another win in Denver in Game Five to set up a possible series-clinching Game Six at home.
Next: Bench Production
The San Antonio Spurs’ bench was a strength all season long, but it’s turned into a major weakness in the playoffs.
The Spurs have jumped out to big first quarter leads in every game of the first round so far, but they’ve allowed Denver to come back each time due in part to the struggles of their second unit.
Rudy Gay played well in the sixth man role after being moved to the bench late in the season, but he has hurt the team mightily in this first round series.
Gay has a true shooting percentage of just 42.3% through four games, and the Spurs have a net rating of -28 when he’s been on the floor.
Marco Belinelli was also a key piece of the reserves’ success during the regular season that has not shown out so far in the playoffs.
Marco is shooting 41.7% from three, but he’s only 4-for-12 on two-point attempts and his defense has been a major issue for the bench as the Spurs have a defensive rating of 121 when he’s been on the court.
Gay, Belinelli, and the rest of San Antonio’s bench will need to step up their level of play if they’re going to pick up a road win and take the series.
Next: Don't allow Nikola Jokic to become a scorer
Don’t allow Nikola Jokic to become a scorer
After a dismal scoring performance in Denver’s Game One loss, their star center Nikola Jokic has become more aggressive scoring the basketball in the subsequent three games.
Jokic only scored 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting in Game One, but he’s scored 20+ points in Games Two, Three, and Four with his best performance of the series coming on Saturday where he scored 29 points while shooting 10-for-22 from the floor.
The Spurs need to force Jokic into being more of a facilitator in the Nuggets’ offense and make Jamal Murray try to beat them with his shot, which has been hot and cold this series.
San Antonio likes their one-on-one matchup between White and Murray at the point guard position much more than the Poeltl and Jokic battle that is going on down low.
Even though Jokic is one of the best passing big men the league has ever seen, the Spurs need to continue to get the ball out of his hands with crashing double teams and force the rest of the Nuggets’ offensive players to make their shots.
If Denver’s supporting cast gets hot and beats them, the Spurs can live with that. But San Antonio can’t continue to let Nikola Jokic eat down low if they’re going to win this series.
Next: Aggressiveness from Derrick White
Aggressiveness from Derrick White
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Derrick White was one of the best stories of the entire postseason through the first three games as he was consistently dominant on both ends of the floor culminating that trio of games with a 36-point night in Game Three where he also contributed 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block while shooting 15-of-21 from the floor.
White came back down to earth in Game Four where he only managed to score 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting, and he commited 4 turnovers while finishing the game with a plus-minus of minus-19.
The former Colorado Buffalo had been torching Jamal Murray on the offensive end and frustrating him on the defensive end of the floor through most of the first three games, but Murray got the best of that matchup in Denver’s Game Four win.
White needs to be as aggressive as he was in Game Three where he relentlessly attacked the basket and provided himself with easy looks while also hitting open teammates when the defense collapsed.
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If the Spurs can get the Derrick White from Games One through Three for the rest of this series, they should be able to pull off the upset and move on to the second round.