Spurs try to bounce back against Nuggets

By Anthony Giornalista,
STATS Senior Writer

A poor-first round performance kept San Antonio from facing the Denver
Nuggets in the 2009 playoffs. The Spurs lost the little momentum they
had hoped to carry into the teams’ first contest of this season.

The Spurs, who were starting to come around after a sluggish start,
look to bounce back from their first loss in six games as they host the
Nuggets on Saturday night.

A second-round
series between second-seeded Denver and third-seeded San Antonio was
expected to be one of the most compelling matchups of last season’s
playoffs, but the Spurs lost to Dallas in five games in the opening
round. The Nuggets would advance to the Western Conference finals
before losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver (14-5) is again establishing itself among the conference’s top
teams, leading the Southwest Division by 2 1/2 games. San Antonio
(9-7), meanwhile, won five straight following a 4-6 start, but had its
streak end Thursday night in a 90-83 home loss to Boston.

Coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged that contest was somewhat of a litmus
test. Only four of the nine teams San Antonio has beaten have had
winning records.

The Spurs were sloppy
against one of the league’s best teams, committing 18 turnovers while
having their worst shooting game of the season from the free-throw line
(7 of 17) and 3-point range (2 of 16).

“They’re not going to hang their heads,” Popovich said. “They’re going
to continue to play hard, but we know full well that we’re making too
many mental errors in games.”

A bright spot
for San Antonio was its play in the paint, outrebounding Boston 55-32.
Led by Tim Duncan and rookie DeJuan Blair, the Spurs had a season-high
20 offensive rebounds.

Duncan had 15 rebounds but committed six turnovers. Blair had a career-high 18 points and 11 boards.

Blair, a second-round pick, had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 97-89
win over Philadelphia on Sunday night, giving him consecutive
double-doubles for the first time.

“I am
getting more comfortable every day,” Blair said. “My teammates are
doing great at helping in situations when I don’t know what to do. I am
just listening and asking questions. We are going to fight back from
this and try to get a win on Saturday.”

San Antonio, allowing 96.1 points per game, has its hands full against
a Denver team that has averaged 116.3 over its last seven contests,
winning six. The Nuggets shot 52.9 percent (9 for 17) from 3-point
range in a 114-96 win over Miami on Thursday night.

Denver, though, is kicking off a four-game stretch on the road, where
it lost four of five before a 124-111 victory at Minnesota on Nov. 25
in its most recent road game.

Nuggets star
Carmelo Anthony is shooting 42.9 percent from the field on the road,
compared to 54.0 percent at home. Anthony, who leads the NBA with 30.2
points per game, is the only player in the league to score at least 20
in every game this season.

“It’s a cool streak. Hopefully I’ll keep it going,” Anthony said.

Anthony is averaging 17.0 points – 7.4 below his career average – and
shooting 37.1 percent in his last nine games at San Antonio.

The Nuggets won two of three games against the Spurs last season,
including a 91-81 victory in the only meeting in San Antonio.

Received 12/04/09 03:15 pm ET