Following Tuesday’s 115-98 road win at the New Orleans Pelicans, the Denver Nuggets are once again above the .500 mark (6-5). They will finish a three-game road trip by visiting the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
Playing in the Alamo City is never an easy task, but the Spurs have had the upper hand over the last two seasons, piecing together a seven-game winning streak against the Nuggets. Denver has not beaten San Antonio since notching a 96-86 win in Denver on April 10, 2013, and has not won on the Spurs’ home floor since a 99-94 decision on March 4, 2012.
San Antonio enters the contest with an 8-2 mark after a 93-80 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Kahwi Leonard leads the Spurs with 21.6 points per game while LaMarcus Aldridge is settling into his first season with San Antonio by averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing.
How can Denver topple San Antonio and snap its seven-game losing streak to the Spurs? Let’s take a look at how two NBA teams beat the Spurs this season. San Antonio dropped the season-opener at the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-106, and lost at the Washington Wizards, 102-99, one week later. What did they do that the Nuggets could duplicate? Four things stand out.
1. Force some turnovers. In their two losses this season, San Antonio has turned the ball over an average of 17 times, including 21 against Washington. The Wizards turned up the heat in the fourth quarter as 10 of San Antonio’s 21 turnovers occurred in that period. That helped Washington outscore San Antonio 36-26 in the final period.
2. Hit the boards. In its eight wins, San Antonio has averaged 47.9 rebounds per game. In its two losses, that number drops to 42.5. This may be a tall order (no pun intended) as Denver enters Wednesday night’s game 17th in the league in rebounds at 44.2 boards per game, but inside play will be a big key for Denver with Leonard, Aldridge, and Tim Duncan patrolling the middle for the Spurs.
3. Continue the high scoring on the road. San Antonio is currently second in the NBA, allowing just 90.6 points per game. At home, the Spurs are particularly stingy, allowing just 83.0 points in four games inside the AT&T Center. What’s the good news for the Nuggets? They’re actually scoring more on the road than at home, registering 103.0 points per road game versus 96.0 in five games inside the Pepsi Center.
4. Force the tempo. For years under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have run a methodical, efficient offense. When that gets out of rhythm, so do the Spurs. In their two losses, this season, the Spurs’ pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes) has been 102.34. In their wins, that number drops to 96.34.