The Denver Nuggets will undoubtedly be a tough out once the
playoffs start. Their current defensive form could vault them into
a title contender.
The Nuggets try to keep sole possession of the Northwest
Division lead and extend their current winning streak to five games
Saturday night when they host the San Antonio Spurs.
Only one game separates second-place Denver (52-27) from fifth
in the Western Conference, which at the very least could be the
difference between a division title and starting the postseason on
the road. The Nuggets have a tenuous one-half game lead over Utah
in the Northwest but have picked an opportune time to clamp down
defensively and augment an offense that averages 106.6 points per
game – good for second in the league.
Denver forced Oklahoma City to miss its final 13 shots in
Wednesday’s 98-94 road victory, and star forward Carmelo Anthony
made the key play without the ball in Thursday’s 98-96 win over the
Lakers, blocking Derek Fisher’s potential game-tying jumper at the
“Feels good to do something else, though, other than hitting a
game-winner,” said Anthony, who scored 31 points. “That felt just
as good as hitting the game-winner. It was a game-winner.”
When Anthony and the Nuggets focus defensively, they are hard to
beat. They have limited opponents to 93.0 points per game on 42.1
percent shooting during their winning streak – well below their
respective season marks of 102.1 points and 45.6 percent – and are
30-3 when holding foes under 100 points.
The Nuggets have to like their chances of delivering defensively
with Kenyon Martin returning Saturday. The veteran forward will
play against San Antonio after missing 18 games with patellar
tendinitis in his left knee. Martin underwent platelet-rich plasma
therapy March 8 and has been working out with the goal of returning
before the playoffs start.
Denver can clinch its second straight division title with
victories in this game and Monday at home against Memphis.
San Antonio (48-31) knows all about championship-caliber
defense, the driving force of its four titles since the start of
the 1999 lockout-shortened season. The Spurs, though, are currently
eighth in the West and need to win two of their final three games
to avoid finishing with fewer than 50 wins in a full season for the
first time since 1996-97.
They head to the Pepsi Center looking to avoid a third
consecutive loss following a 107-99 home loss to the Grizzlies on
Friday. Manu Ginobili scored 26 points hours after signing a $39
million extension, but San Antonio allowed Memphis to shoot 49
percent from the field and amass a 48-39 edge in rebounds.
“We are in a great fight with Portland and Oklahoma City,”
Ginobili said. “We let this one get away. We should have won and
at least taken a one-game advantage.”
The loss dropped the Spurs into eighth in the West, which would
relegate them to a first-round series with the top-seeded and
reigning NBA champion Lakers. San Antonio could finish as high as
fifth by winning its final three games depending on how its
tiebreakers against Oklahoma City, Portland and Phoenix play
The Argentine guard, though, continued his torrid scoring run.
He has averaged 25.8 points his last 12 games, well above his
season average of 15.5 points, while shooting 47.4 percent.
Ginobili has scored 14.3 points per game versus Denver this season,
but has been limited to 32.3 percent (10 for 31) shooting in those
The Nuggets won both games at San Antonio, but the Spurs shot
53.2 percent and had seven players reach double figures in a 111-92
victory Feb. 11 at Denver in the most recent meeting.