Despite some fans’ protests, the San Antonio Spurs have won seven of their last nine games and are two games ahead of the woeful Los Angeles Lakers. They seem fairly comfortable in their current spot as the final team to make the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, but they still have one large test ahead of them.
The Spurs’ recent wins have come against the Pelicans, Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, and Trail Blazers. The Pelicans are currently ahead of the Spurs, but they are by no means a powerhouse. The Thunder and Rockets are among the worst teams in the league, and the Warriors are skidding after a very hot start.
The Blazers started the season with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and are now finishing up one of the most blatant tank jobs I have ever seen. While the recent winning is impressive, the Spurs have not had to play any real teams as of late.
Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Spurs have to face them Tuesday night, and it should be very telling about any playoff hopes in San Antonio. At this point in the season, the Spurs should be trying to win to pass New Orleans for homecourt advantage in the play-in tournament's first game. The Nuggets are currently the fifth seed, but they have not quite clinched a playoff spot yet despite Nikola Jovic having a historic season.
The Nuggets are hosting the Spurs in what should be a must-win game for them. They are favored by 9.5 points but Jamal Murray and Micheal Porter Jr. are not back from their injuries yet. Denver has three games to go (San Antonio, Memphis, Los Angeles) and one of them should be a cakewalk. They will have a very tough battle against the Grizzlies, so it might all come down to Tuesday’s game against the Spurs.
The Nuggets hold a two-game lead against the seventh-seeded Timberwolves, but Minnesota holds the tiebreaker and has three games of their own to close the gap (Washington, San Antonio, Chicago).
Both Denver and San Antonio have reason to field a full roster in the game. The Spurs can move up in the play-in ladder, and Denver could find themselves in the play-in as the seventh seed if they're not careful. Anything can happen in a win-or-go-home tournament.
For the Spurs, that means they could shock the world. For the Nuggets, it could mean an early end to a season full of shattered promises. San Antonio will be without All-Star Dejounte Murray, who is recovering from a non-COVID-related illness.
It’s weird that a League Pass game between two small-market teams could have such an effect on the Lakers, Timberwolves, Jazz, and Pelicans, but fans of several teams will have good reason to tune in to Tuesday’s game to see if the Spurs can keep their recent winning ways rolling.