Spurs-Nuggets Preview

After getting blown out by the NBA’s best team, the Denver Nuggets have no time to recover as they face the defending champions next.

Not only will the San Antonio Spurs be better rested, they don’t sound like they will take anything for granted because of their current place in the standings.

The visiting Spurs seek a fourth straight victory Tuesday night when they try to hand the reeling Nuggets a fourth straight defeat.

San Antonio (26-16) did not play Monday, and Denver (18-23) probably wishes it didn’t. The Nuggets trailed by 27 points at halftime as they were crushed in their worst loss of the season, 122-79 at Golden State.

”We didn’t compete. We looked like we were scared,” coach Brian Shaw said. ”I’m trying to be guarded in what I’m saying because I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but I just don’t understand how as a team we can’t come out and compete when you’re playing the best team in the league.”

The Spurs start a two-game trip before returning home for their next six games. They are in seventh place in the Western Conference as they seek to make up ground.

"We have a great opportunity," guard Tony Parker said. "We have two big games on the road and then we have a lot of games at home. It would be nice to take all those games because we have some catching up to do."

San Antonio’s last two games have been marked by the return of Kawhi Leonard after last season’s Finals MVP missed the previous 15 due to a torn ligament in his right hand. Leonard scored 20 points in Friday’s 110-96 win over Portland before contributing 12 and nine rebounds in Sunday’s 89-69 rout of Utah.

”He always impacts a game,” coach Gregg Popovich said. ”Whether it’s the person he’s guarding or giving help and making a steal, rebounding the basketball, scoring; he always has an impact on the game."

Evidence of this came when Leonard was the Spurs’ top scorer with 18 points in a 99-91 win at Denver on Dec. 14. He also had eight rebounds, a career-high six blocks, five steals and four assists as he returned from a two-game absence due to the aforementioned hand injury.

Parker sat out that contest with a mild left hamstring strain. He will match up with Ty Lawson, who is averaging 9.6 points on 29.6 percent shooting in his last five games – all losses – versus the Spurs.

Lawson’s backcourt mate, Arron Afflalo, scored 31 in the first meeting. Afflalo is averaging 10.3 points on 11-of-39 shooting in this losing streak.

Shaw said the Nuggets’ first half of the season was "terrible and going in the wrong direction," also pointing to Saturday’s 113-105 home defeat to lowly Minnesota.

"I guess it started with our loss the other night in Minnesota and carried over to tonight," he said. "Our schedule is only going to get tougher. And now is the time where we really need to hunker down and really go after it and it doesn’t seem like we’re doing it."