Injured for San Antonio: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson
Injured for Denver: Ty Lawson, Danillo Gallinari
Yes, the Denver Nuggets were missing two of their key players Wednesday, however the Spurs were missing arguably their best player and almost half of their bench as the Nuggets defeated the Spurs 96-86 in Denver.
The Spurs started the game in a way not many expected, a 12-0 run initiated by Tim Duncan who finished with 17 points and one block in 27 minutes. After going up by as much as 14 points and holding the Nuggets to just 11 points in the first quarter, the defense wouldn’t be the same as the Nuggets took control for the rest of the game.
Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 29 points, while his substitute off the bench, Corey Brewer, chipped in with 28 points. Duncan and the Spurs received their help off the bench too little too late from Gary Neal with 17 points.
The Spurs are built as a team that penetrates into traffic, draws in a defense, and passes out to open shooters. At times in the game, the penetration was there, only the part where the shooters make shots was not. The Spurs shot 4-of-21 from beyond the arc and 40% overall in Denver.
The game was competitive for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets blew the lid off as they went on a massive run to put themselves ahead 19 points. Spurs head Coach Gregg Popovich wouldn’t put Duncan, Tiago Splitter (10 points), Danny Green (10 points), Nando De Colo, or Kawhi Leonard (11 rebounds) in for the final 12 minutes.
The bench showed that as long as they were wearing the silver and black, they would continue to do what it took to make a comeback. A group made-up of Neal, Patty Mills, Cory Joseph, DeJuan Blair (12 points), and Aron Baynes were actually able to cut the Nuggets lead to five points with less than two minutes remaining, but Brewer and company would eventually close the game out to win by 10.
With four games remaining, the Spurs fall to 57-21 on the season. Even though they’re tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder (57-21) for the best record in the Western Conference, the Thunder hold the tie breaker, so they currently have possession of the number one seed in the West.
Though they have been hobbled since losing Ginobili and Parker, the Spurs are playing the worst basketball of any of the top-8 Western Conference playoff teams in their last 10 games, as San Antonio is 5-5 in that stretch.
Will the Spurs continue to let these final four games be opportunities to allow players to recover and rest, or will they try to pick up some momentum heading into the post season?
We’ll find out starting Friday as the Sacramento Kings visit the AT&T Center.