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The Denver Nuggets gave fans an early Christmas gift with an unlikely victory over the Phoenix Suns on the night before Christmas Eve, despite an injury and illness-ridden roster. The San Antonio Spurs will be hungry to get back to their winning ways after their seven-game win streak was surprisingly snapped by the Houston Rockets on Christmas night.
The Nuggets have faced the Spurs twice already this season, both games taking place over a 10-day stretch in November and both resulting in 11-point Spurs victories. Denver will look to continue the momentum built during their inspired victory over the Suns, and hand the Spurs their first back-to-back losses of the season.
Regular Season Game 30
|6:30 p.m. MT
|Altitude, AM 950
The Nuggets rotating door into the training room should stabilize a bit tonight as Jameer Nelson and Joffrey Lauvergne are expected to be back on the court, however Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic are not expected to be ready for action yet. This, of course, could change at any moment as 2015 has brought the Nuggets surprise additions and subtractions the the lineup on nearly every game night. Despite the instability of the roster, Denver sits just one game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference entering tonight’s game.
“Fifteen years in the league that is one of the better wins I have been a part of. We had every reason to go out there and feel sorry for ourselves and not show up.”
-Head Coach Michael Malone on the victory over the Suns, despite injuries.
A combination of vintage performances by veterans Randy Foye — 31 points, 6 assists and seven 3-pointers made — and Darrell Arthur — 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks — along with solid contributions from youngsters Will Barton, Nikola Jokic and Kostas Papanikolaou led to Denver’s first victory over the Suns in three tries this season, and it will take a similar effort to do the same against the Spurs tonight.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have managed to fly under the radar this season despite racking up 25 wins in their first 31 games of the season – thanks to the Golden State Warriors historic start to the year. They sit only four games behind Golden State in the standings even after last night’s loss to Houston Rockets, keeping the No. 1 seed well within reach for Gregg Popovich and his squad.
Whoever starts at Small Forward will have their hands full with Kawhi Leonard who continued to fill up the box score, despite having an off night shooting against the Rockets. He ended up with 20 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocked shots while only turning the ball over once. If Steph Curry weren’t changing the way basketball is played, Kawhi would be right at the top of the list of early MVP candidates.
Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge continue to do what Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge have done for seemingly all of eternity, grabbing rebounds and hitting mid-range jumpers. So much of the Spurs vulnerabilities lie in the play of their backcourt. Tony Parker and Patty Mills struggled on Christmas night and Manu Ginobili and Danny Green failed to make much of an impact in the game either, so the Nuggets will look to keep those struggles going to come away with a win tonight.
What to Watch
- The Nuggets have struggled to guard the 3-point line all season and the Spurs are one of the best at getting open looks from deep, so keep an eye on the defensive rotations tonight to see if Coach Malone’s message is getting through to the young team.
- Joffrey Lauvergne and Nikola Jokic will need to be at their best to limit the Spurs damage in the paint against the All-Star Aldridge and all-time-great Duncan.
- With Gallo out, Kostas Papanikolaous will likely draw the match-up with non-Curry MVP candidate Leonard. It will be worth watching if he’s able to limit Leonard’s all-around game.