It looks like the San Antonio Spurs have a tough week ahead, but there's more than meets the eye on paper.
Tipping off their week in Phoenix on Monday, the Spurs will be wrapping up a road trip in which they faced the teams with the two best records in the NBA in three days. San Antonio then returns home, where they'll face the New York Knicks for a back-to-back on Tuesday before finishing the week with two straight home games against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday and Saturday.
San Antonio has lost three straight to the Suns, including a 115-111 loss in their only meeting last season. They also dropped their last game against the Knicks in New York in May and have lost three straight to the Nuggets. It definitely seems like a 1-3 week going by recent trends and matchups.
Fortunately, there's more to it than that.
While they're still dangerous even without a key guy or two, the Phoenix Suns will be without star guard Devin Booker, who is expected to miss some time with a minor left hamstring injury. Booker is shooting a career-high 40.3% from 3-point range and is responsible for one-fifth of the points Phoenix puts up nightly.
The New York Knicks have been just as unpredictable as the Spurs so far this season. After starting the year 5-1, they've fallen back to earth and have been hovering near .500 for the past couple of weeks. There's no distinct advantage matchup-wise, but the Knicks haven't won at the AT&T Center since 2014 and have lost four of five overall to the Spurs.
The state of the Denver Nuggets will be the most important factor for this week's results. They're dealing with a mountain of injuries that includes Jamal Murray (knee), PJ Dozier (ACL), Bones Hyland (health and safety protocols), Michael Porter Jr. (back), and Austin Rivers (health and safety protocols).
As a result, the Nuggets are predictably struggling, losing six straight games in November and dropping one to the lowly Orlando Magic to start December. Beyond their health issues, the Nuggets will be on the tail-end of a seven-game road trip when they visit San Antonio. Thursday's game will also be the second half of a back-to-back for them after they visit New Orleans on Wednesday.
The great equalizer, of course, is Nikola Jokic. He has had the Spurs' number since entering the league and put up 32 points and 16 rebounds in Denver's win at the beginning of the season. Surprisingly, though, he's just 1-9 against San Antonio on the road in his career.
There's no reason the Spurs shouldn't at least be able to take one from Denver in their two-game series, and even taking both isn't out of the question.
The Spurs' schedule might look intimidating this week, but a 2-2 split or even 3-1 result is very doable when you consider the circumstances.