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Denver Nuggets look to make statement against defensive juggernaut Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

An Nguyen Avatar
November 18, 2015


Less than 24 hours after a feel-good win against the struggling New Orleans Pelicans, Danilo Gallinari and the Denver Nuggets will face a true test in the dominating San Antonio Spurs (8-2) who are holding their opponents to a league-best 90.6 ppg, in addition to having the second best point-differential (+10.8). The Spurs, on the other hand, have been resting in San Antonio since Tuesday’s blowout win against the Portland Trailblazers, having ample time to prepare for the Nuggets — one of head coach Gregg Popovich’s specialties. In a game where no logical mind would predict a Nuggets victory, Denver has a prime chance to not only steal a road win, but to make an eye-opening statement to the rest of the league.

Regular Season Game 12


Nuggets @ Spurs
7 p.m. MT on Altitude, 104.3FM

The new sheriff in town

Making an uncharacteristic splash in free agency, the San Antonio Spurs inked highly-sought offensive big man LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year, $80 million max contract this summer. Aldridge has been productive averaging a near double-double (15.2 points, 9.6 rebounds), but is currently setting career lows in both points and field goal percentage — including a 6-point, 25 percent shooting performance in 33 minutes during his last game against his former team, the Trail Blazers. The Spurs and Aldridge may look to the Nuggets, who he set his career high in points (44) against, and their documented problems of guarding post-scorers as a perfect launching pad to get the $80 million player in the groove.

The Italian Stallion

Gallinari ended last season on an absolute tear averaging 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 44 percent shooting (40 percent from 3-point range) after the all-star break, including two 40-point performances. Gallo has maintained that momentum through EuroBasket, preseason and now the beginning of the regular season as he’s averaged career-highs in both points (19.1) and efficiency (43 percent shooting, 40 percent from three) through the first 11 games of the season.

Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Brandon Knight and Gallinari — those are the only four players this season to have 30+ points, 8+ assists and 8+ rebounds in a single game. Coming off a superb performance of 32 points (12-19 shooting, 5-8 from three), eight rebounds and eight assists last night against the Pelicans, the Italian Stallion will look to continue his dominance against the Spurs and their reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard. If the Nuggets are to have any chance of sniffing victory tonight, Gallo will be critical.


Projected Starters
Nuggets Spurs

Emmanuel Mudiay (R)

Gary Harris

Danilo Gallinari

Kenneth Faried

J.J. Hickson

Tony Parker

Danny Green

Kawhi Leonard

LaMarcus Aldridge

Tim Duncan

Credit: Dennis Köhler
Credit: Dennis Köhler


Denver Nuggets:

Injury report: Jusuf Nurkic – out (rehabbing from patella tendon surgery in his left knee), Wilson Chandler – out (right hip surgery), Joffrey Lauvergne – questionable (low back tightness/soreness), Darrell Arthur – questionable (illness).

Emmanuel Mudiay should have an easier match-up against undersized guard Tony Parker than he did the last two games against Eric Bledsoe and Jrue Holiday. Mudiay thrives when he can blow by his man and read the defense without having to worry about his defender, a luxury he simply did not have with Bledsoe and Holiday.

I was thinking Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich might elect to have Danny Green guard Mudiay while Parker sticks to the less offensive-able Gary Harris, but in the two games I watched against the Blazers and the Sacramento Kings, Parker was tasked with guarding Damian Lillard (27 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) and Rajon Rondo (8 points, 12 assists). The rookie should be in for a good night of driving and kicking as he’s matched up against a minus-defender in Parker.

Harris gets matched up in a “D-and-3” battle against a player he should be modeling his game after. I have a feeling head coach Michael Malone will task Harris with guarding Parker in an effort to cut the head off the snake that is the San Antonio offense.

Gallinari and Leonard get locked into a battle of the wings in what promises to be a heated match-up. Gallinari has been on an absolute tear and Leonard will personally look to lock him down with his ginormous wingspan and hands. Gallinari will be in for a long night if he can’t get his shot to fall.

Kenneth Faried will need to dominate Aldridge in effort to offset the difference in their post abilities. Historically a defensive-sieve, Faried will face his biggest test of the season as he attempts to slow down Aldridge and his automatic post-fadeaway. It hasn’t been pretty in the past for Faried against Aldridge.

J.J. Hickson will look to continue his superb pick and roll play with Mudiay as he attempts to wear down Duncan with pure activity. As long as Hickson makes Duncan work for production and expend his energy, J.J. has done his job for the Nuggets victory.

San Antonio Spurs:

Injury report: Manu Ginobili – out (bilateral hip tightness).

Parker will keep whoever is guarding him busy as he’ll be darting in, through and around Spurs screens all night long. Harris is my favorite to defend Parker as Mudiay will need all the energy he can spare to run the Nuggets offense.

Green is always a threat to kill from beyond the arc and the Nuggets will need to do a good job preventing wide-open Green corner threes — something I’m afraid Nuggets fans will grow all too accustomed to during tonight’s game.

Leonard continues his two-way dominance as he looks to stop Gallinari’s hot streak while continuing his career highs in points (21.6), rebounds (7.7) and shooting (52.6 percent FG, 38.2 percent 3FG). Stopping Leonard is number two on the priority list, right after stopping…

Aldridge is primed for a field day as the Nuggets don’t really have anyone who can effectively guard him. The Nuggets will have to hope Aldridge continues his slow start, looking lost in the normally free-flowing San Antonio offense as he figures out the stark contrast between it and his ball-stopping offensive skillset.

Tim Duncan continues to be Tim Duncan as he provides a stabilizing force for a Spurs team that has seemingly rebuilt its future on the fly. Duncan typically plays in the bigger lineups while Boris Diaw is inserted when the Spurs want to play small. Expect Malone to make his substitutions tonight based on this fact first and foremost.

Tip off is tonight at 6:30 MT.



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