San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich may’ve cooked up any variety of devious defensive schemes in opposition to Denver in Sport 1. As a substitute, in response to a number of Nuggets, the Spurs’ plan was precisely what they anticipated.
The query, following Saturday night time’s Sport 1 playoff loss, is whether or not the Nuggets could make the Spurs pay for his or her ways heading into Tuesday’s Sport 2?
All-Star Nikola Jokic stated he anticipated the thicket of double-teams the Spurs threw in his path. His triple-double, simply the fourth for any participant in NBA historical past making their playoff debut, proved he knew methods to circumvent their technique. Jokic had 10 factors to go together with 14 rebounds and 14 assists. Had his teammates not bricked an irregular variety of open appears, he would’ve had not less than a number of extra assists.
San Antonio needed the ball out of Jokic’s fingers and into the fingers of the Nuggets’ 3-point shooters, lots of whom had been making their postseason debut. Identical to everybody else, the Spurs knew Denver’s 3-point taking pictures had fallen to only 33 % during the last month. And relatively than let Jokic toy with their inside defenders and danger getting LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl into much more foul hassle, Popovich despatched the entice at Jokic.
“Each time he put it down, there was anyone proper there,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated. “Sadly, we didn’t make them pay for double-teaming sufficient. I believe if we’re making photographs, it turns into loads more durable to double-team him constantly. They stayed with it as a result of we couldn’t make a shot.”
The Nuggets’ beginning lineup shot a mixed 3-of-22 from the 3-point line. Torrey Craig (two) and Malik Beasley (1) contributed the one different triples.
However the Nuggets had an opportunity to win the sport on Jamal Murray’s clear look from the fitting elbow, however he clanked the shot with underneath 10 seconds left. The Nuggets’ protection – they held San Antonio to only 42 factors within the second half – was the rationale they practically overcame their brutal taking pictures night time.
“We kinda knew with him being such a risk that he was going to attract a variety of consideration,” stated guard Monte Morris. “Now we all know going ahead, we simply gotta all be shot prepared and shoot it with confidence.”
Popovich dared the Nuggets shooters to beat them, and it swung homecourt benefit within the course of. Nuggets ahead Paul Millsap stated he welcomed the same ploy in Sport 2.
“If they arrive with the identical technique, we’ll make them subsequent time for certain,” Millsap stated.
Denver’s 6 for 28 3-point taking pictures, to not point out its eight missed free throws, was solely half the issue. The Spurs took the fewest quantity of 3-point makes an attempt within the NBA throughout the common season (25.3) however related on them greater than some other crew (39.2 %). The scouting report didn’t seem to matter. The Nuggets overhelped in some instances Saturday night time, couldn’t get via screens in different conditions or didn’t respect their long-distance gunners. The Spurs had been ruthlessly environment friendly from the skin, hitting on 7-of-15 makes an attempt.
“A few occasions we bought disconnected with their shooters,” Malone stated. “Bryn Forbes, we went underneath. Marco Belinelli, we took a physique off. That’s the place the self-discipline comes into play. You make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay. These six factors proper there, that’s an enormous distinction that may make a huge effect on the end result.”
Going ahead, the Nuggets know what’s at stake. They will’t afford lapses on protection and easily should shoot higher to even the collection. A reminder that the Spurs weren’t a superb highway crew may assist. If they’ll win on the highway within the playoffs, so can the Nuggets. However first, a win in Sport 2 it very important.
“We’ll regroup, we’ll watch movie, we’ll clear some issues up,” Malone stated. “Extra importantly within the playoffs, you by no means get too excessive, you by no means get too low. It’s the primary one to 4.”