Nuggets-Spurs Playoff Series Preview
What to Look For: Honestly, who wouldn’t want to see an upset in this series? Denver is the most exciting team in the NBA with two of the most watchable stars in the game. As phenomenal a season Carmelo Anthony has had, no one seems to believe he and Iverson can carry the Nuggets out of the first round, though. That might be enough to motivate the duo. Also, back in the mid ‘90s Duncan and Camby were the two best big men in college basketball. When they played head to head on national television Duncan served Camby. Is it finally time for Camby to get some get-back? These might be the two hottest teams in the NBA right now. Both of their records in the month of April were phenomenal. This series is all about tempo and who controls it. If Iverson continues to play within a team framework and Melo doesn’t resort to jumpers, Denver is dangerous.
Denver Strengths/Weaknesses: It bears repeating: the Nuggets have the best one-two scoring punch in the game. They also have one of the best defensive rebounders and shotblockers in Camby. Quietly, the acquisition of Steve Blake might’ve been one of the best mid-season moves by any NBA team. He knows how to distribute. He’s a great decision maker. He’s a winner. He’s not as fast as Parker, but he moves his feet well enough to at least funnel him away from his sweet spots in the lane. Iverson can’t cheat on defense and Melo has to hit the boards harder than he normally hits them. At the same time, the Nuggets defensive woes won’t be solved in a series.
San Antonio Strengths/Weaknesses: Writing about San Antonio at this point feels almost redundant. We know exactly what they are going to do and yet they continue to do it successfully. What’s their secret? Spacing on offense. Pressure on defense. They score a lot of easy buckets through Duncan. Ginobli still isn’t given the credit he deserves for being one of the best players in the world. By bringing in Jacque Vaughn they’ve added another smart, steady veteran who can score (if lleft open ) and will play tough defense every time down the court. They will struggle to keep pace with the Nuggets whenever Parker is off the court. The shooting guard position is also shaky. Finley and Barry are no longer consistent scoring threats even though both are capable of exploding on a given.
How They’ll Match-up: On paper San Antonio has the advantage. Denver’s starting backcourt is tiny. Finley, Barry or Bowen will have a serious size advantage. Camby and Duncan should be fun to watch on the interior, if they in fact guard one another. Denver will be counting heavily on the one factor you can’t put down on paper: Iverson’s heart and capacity to make impossible plays in the playoffs.
The X-Factors: Nene has looked awesome in the last month or so. He’s leaner and quicker off his feet and more skilled around the basket than he’s ever been. Quietly, he may be the difference maker. Linas Kleiza has stepped it up dramatically in the last month and proven he is a scoring option. Whether J.R. Smith will be able to find a way to fit into the offense remains to be seen. Ginobli will get his, as will Parker and Duncan. The question is whether Finley, Barry and Horry will provide anything. If Finley’s jumper continues to look flat the Spurs could be in trouble. If Horry continues being a non-factor look for Elson to see a lot of action. He’s athletic and energetic, two qualities the Spurs will desperately need against Denver. The biggest factor might be whether Bowen is able to get in Melo’s head and wear him down psychologically. If he can, the series is a wash.
Series Prediction: Are you ready for this? Denver in seven.