San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets Pick
San Antonio Spurs (48-34 SU, 43-38-1 ATS) vs. Denver Nuggets (54-28 SU, 42-40 ATS)
When: Saturday, April 13th, 2019 – 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
By: Matt Lowry, NBA Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SA +5.5 / DEN -5.5 (MyBookie Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 210.5
Last Time Out: San Antonio beat Dallas 105-94; Denver beat Minnesota 99-94
With the regular season having just concluded, I can finally say, “Playoff Basketball is here!” To recap my last pick, the Orlando Magic easily took care of the Charlotte Hornets to officially eliminate them from playoff contention. My win streak is back to 1-game and I look forward to keeping my winning streak alive as the playoffs kick off this weekend.
Both teams will have had two days of rest heading into game one of this series, but what does that mean? History shows that after having two days of rest, the San Antonio Spurs are 10-4 straight up and 9-5 against the spread. As for the Nuggets, they are 7-0 straight up and 5-2 against the spread.
Looking at the Spurs, this will be their 22nd consecutive year they have made the playoffs under Popovich and he always seems to have his team ready. Okay maybe not last year when they were blasted in the first round by Golden State, but nonetheless, the Spurs always seem to be prepared come playoff time.
The next question to ask is, “Can DeRozan do enough to lead the Spurs past the Nuggets?” DeRozan averaged 21.2 points per game this year, which is 2nd on this Spurs team. In four games against the Nuggets in the regular season, DeRozan scored 80 total points (an average of 20 points per game), so he has really been a thorn in the Nuggets side. However, while DeRozan’s performance will be critical to the Spurs success, it will not be the most important in this series.
What I believe to be the most important matchup is LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Nikola Jokic. LaMarcus Aldridge was the leading scorer for the Spurs, averaging 21.3 points per game. He also led this team in rebounding, averaging 9.2 boards per game. But why is his presence so important in the paint? Well first off, in the four meetings this season, Aldridge out-performed the Nuggets’ star in terms of scoring. LA scored a total of 89 points in these four games (an average of 22.3), while Jokic scored 67 (an average of 16.8). This was not the case with rebounding however, as Aldridge had just 26 rebounds (6.5 per game) against the Nuggets, while Jokic had 34 (8.5 per game) against the Spurs. Here is where it will be crucial for LaMarcus to excel. It also should be noted that team who won the defensive rebounding battle in their regular season games went 4-0.
Mile High Mission:
The Nuggets are back in the playoffs with one thing on their mind, an NBA Championship. But really, “Are they legit?” is the question to ask yourself. Sure, they won 54 games this season, but they really struggled at times this year and failed to perform well against some of the top teams. To further break that down, their record against the current 1-4 seeds in the West (excluding themselves) was 5-7. Their record against the 5 through 8 seeds in the West was 9-7. This equates to a 14-14 record against playoff teams out of the West, which should be concerning given the teams the Nuggets will be going up against.
So, what does this mean for a series against the Spurs? To start, this is the Nuggets first playoff series since the 2012-2013 season. They are sure to be nervous given the stage they will be playing on, so one of their biggest keys will be getting off to a fast start. If they go down big early, it will only mean trouble given the lack of playoff experience this team has. That said, look for their younger players to step up throughout this series. Guys like Jamal Murray will need to continue playing at an elite level if the Nuggets are going to pass their first playoff test. Speaking of Murray, the third-year player out of Kentucky has finally found his rhythm and is 2nd on the team in scoring this season, averaging 18.2 points per game. Over his last nine games alone, he is averaging 20.6 points per game, making him a vital part of the Nuggets title run. Of course, there is also Nikola Jokic, who leads the team in virtually every category. I mentioned him earlier, but to reinforce that, Jokic must continue to be the go to guy on this Denver squad and cannot afford to have a bad game.
These teams split their four meetings this year, with the home team winning each time. In fact, the home team has won the last 10 times these teams have played. I believe this trend will continue and I like the Nuggets to win their first playoff game on their home court. However, I still believe the Spurs are much too experienced overall and will keep this game close enough to have a chance at the end to win outright.
San Antonio Spurs +5.5
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