The Denver Nuggets’ Game 4 Defense

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DeMar DeRozan

In Game 3, the Denver Nuggets’ defense allowed the San Antonio Spurs to score 130.3 points per 100 possessions, rebound 38.6% of their own misses, and have a free throw rate of 27.1 on an effective field goal percentage of 54.7%, all before garbage time.

In Game 4, the Spurs did worse in each of the four factors other than free throw rate, with a 5.3% drop in effective field goal percentage being possibly hardest of those to overcome.

Nikola Jokic was particularly strong on defense in Game 4. According to data from Second Spectrum on NBA’s stat site, Jokic only allowed his “matchups” to make only  14.3% of their attempts. For most of the game, though, Jokic defended Jakob Poeltl who shot only once against Jokic. LaMarcus Aldridge was 1 of 4 against Jokic, per NBA’s stat site.

The Second Spectrum defense tracking data shows that the Spurs also shot poorly when defended by Will Barton (2 of 7), Malik Beasley (2 of 6), Gary Harris (3 of 8), Jamal Murray (3 of 8), and Paul Millsap (6 of 15).

Maybe some of this is just a bad shooting night from the Spurs, who made 27.8% of their long mid-range shots, according to CleaningTheGlass, after making 42.7% of their attempts from long mid-range during the regular season. Even before Game 4, though, the Spurs’ only shot 39.1% from that area in the playoffs.

If it was just a poor shooting night, it wasn’t the starters who caused it. Combined, the starters shot 26/50. Most of those makes may have come in the first quarter, though, when the Spurs went up by 12. DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge combined for 43 points on 31 attempts, so the Spurs’ two offensive stars still had solid games.

The Spurs’ halfcourt offense was not as strong as it usually is and the Nuggets played much better than normal in the halfcourt. The Spurs scored 94.0 points per 100 “halfcourt plays” in this game while averaging 100.0 throughout the regular season and 101.6 in first three games of the series.

The Nuggets, on the other hand, scored 95.3 points per 100 plays in the halfcourt during the regular season and 94.4 in the first three games, but 111.4 in Game 4.

Some of these numbers may be the result of a bad shooting night. If Denver has found a way to shut down most of the Spurs’ offense outside of Aldridge and DeRozan, the Spurs may have difficulty winning 2 of the next 3.

All stats from CleaningTheGlass unless noted otherwise.

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