In one of the more intriguing first-round matchups, the second-seeded Denver Nuggets (54-28) failed to exert their will on the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs (48-34) in a series that many thought could easily go either way entering Game 1 on Saturday night as the Silver and Black picked up an upset win continuing the trend of lower-seeded teams stealing homecourt advantage on the opening day of the postseason.
While the idea of a No. 7 seed upsetting a No. 2 seed is quite rare, this is a different case — both of these teams split their regular-season series, and while one has the far superior overall record, the other has the clear advantage in experience.
Should the Spurs enjoy the same sort of success in Game 2, the Nuggets will have their work cut out for them when the series shifts to San Antonio.
Here’s everything you need to know about this first-round matchup between the Spurs and the Nuggets.
No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
How to watch Game 2
- Date: Tuesday, April 16
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- Location: Pepsi Center — Denver, Colorado
- TV channel: NBATV
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: FuboTV
- Odds: N/A
Playoff series schedule
All times Eastern
- Game 1 (at DEN): San Antonio Spurs 101, Denver Nuggets 96
- Game 2 (at DEN): Tuesday, April 16, 9 p.m. — TV: NBA TV
- Game 3 (at SA): Thursday, April 18, 9 p.m. — TV: NBA TV
- Game 4 (at SA): Saturday, April 20, 5:30 p.m. — TV: TNT
- Game 5* (at DEN): Tuesday, April 23, TBD — TV: TBD
- Game 6* (at SA): Thursday, April 25, TBD — TV: TBD
- Game 7* (at DEN): Saturday, April 27, TBD — TV: TBD
Odds and Analysis
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Spurs: They may enter as the No. 7 seed, but it’s not as if they’re the clear-cut underdog. They won two of their four games vs. the Nuggets this season and went 32-9 at home. Furthermore, head coach Gregg Popovich will coach his 278th playoff game in Game 1 — Nuggets head coach Michael Malone will be coaching in his first postseason game.
Nuggets: Denver enters as the youngest team in the NBA playoffs — heck, it’s the Nuggets’ first appearance in the postseason since 2013 and they’ll be looking for their first playoff series victory since 2009. In other words, this No. 2 seed features a bunch of players — outside of Paul Millsap — that literally have no experience on the big stage.
Matchups to watch
1. Which star players will take over a game? There is no shortage of star power in this series with the Spurs featuring DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge while the Nuggets feature the likes of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. While all four players are stars in their own right, DeRozan and Aldridge have led teams to conference finals appearances in the past — in other words, they’ve taken over big games and proved their worth.
While Jokic and Murray have certainly accomplished a lot this season, both players — especially Jokic — have disappeared in big games against big teams such as the Golden State Warriors. The fact that the Nuggets lost nine of their 12 games vs. stiff competition such as the Warriors, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz this season provides a little doubt that their star players can take over when the team needs it most.
2. Benches: When you take a look at both teams, it’s clear that the Nuggets have more depth. Monte Morris and Malik Beasley are younger, fresher and better than the Spurs’ Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. But the latter two have a lot more experience and a proven track record in the playoffs, with Mills having made 83 playoff appearances and Belinelli appearing in 58 of his own. Morris and Beasley have a combined zero playoff appearances.
Denver can also shift to the energetic Mason Plumlee (7.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game this season) in relief of Jokic, who could prove to be instrumental when both teams insert their second units in.
3. Popovich vs. Malone: These two may not actually be taking the court, but the difference in head-coaching experience between the two is as vast as they get in the 2019 NBA playoffs. While Popovich has been coaching in the NBA postseason in every year since 1998, Malone makes his first appearance in the playoffs as a head coach.
Considering this is a seven-game series, Popovich’s past (and proven) history of adjusting on the fly could prove to be pivotal in what should be a close series.
However, Malone has fresher legs and better personnel to rely upon — the only detriment is his unit’s lack of playoff experience.
Series prediction, pick
Nuggets in six: This is the most intriguing first-round series of the NBA playoffs. These two teams were so evenly matched during their regular-season matchups with two of the four games being dictated by a combined total of four points. Furthermore, when you combine the Nuggets’ dominance at home (34-7) with the Spurs’ own success on their home floor, this becomes a matter of who can steal the first road game in the series.
While the Nuggets enter as the most inexperienced bunch in the playoffs, the Spurs enter as a playoff-tested foe. Aldridge has been an annual NBA playoff performer for well over a decade, DeRozan has led Toronto Raptors squads deep into the playoffs over the years and the supporting cast featuring Mills and Belinelli have won titles with the Spurs.
With that said, I do believe talent will trump experience in this series. But don’t expect it to come easy for the Nuggets.