SAN ANTONIO SPURS (57-13) vs. DENVER NUGGETS (42-29)
|SPURS||Manu Ginobili 18.0||Tim Duncan 9.0||Tony Parker 6.6|
|NUGGETS||Danilo Gallinari 16.2||Nene 7.4||Raymond Felton 6.7|
With Tim Duncan out indefinitely, the San Antonio Spurs will look to inch in closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Western Conference when they visit the Denver Nuggets tonight.
The Spurs (57-13), already have clinched a playoff berth and own a big lead in the West will play without Duncan who landed awkwardly after scoring early in the first quarter Monday night and did not return in a 111-96 win over the Golden State Warriors. An MRI taken on Tuesday confirmed he sprained his left ankle.
Duncan will stay in San Antonio for rehabilitation during the team’s three-game road trip that begins tonight, but the Spurs are unsure how much time he will miss.
After Duncan left Monday’s game, rookie center Tiago Splitter recorded his first double-double with 10 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.
It’s likely Splitter will start in Duncan’s place after doing so against the Charlotte Bobcats. Another player who could see additional minutes during Duncan’s absence is forward DeJuan Blair, who did not play last Monday due to a sprained wrist but is expected to play for this game.
The Nuggets (42-29) are fifth in the West but are four games behind fourth place Oklahoma City. They are 10-4 since trading Carmelo Anthony to New York and have limited their opponents to 94.7 points per game in that span.
Denver defeated Toronto 123-90 last Monday night for their seventh straight home win — the last three were by an average of 34.4 points.
Ty Lawson led seven Nuggets in double figures Monday with 23 points and handed out eight assists. Lawson is averaging 16.3 points and 8.1 assists in 10 games this month. He entered March averaging 10.3 points and 3.9 assists.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Offense — It will be key for the Spurs to establish his an inside game early to loosen up the pressure on the Spurs’ outside shooters. Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson and Ginobil has to keep attacking the basket and George Hill, Gary Neal, Steve Novak and Matt Bonner will have to provide the spark from the Spurs’ bench.
Defense — Contain Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Nene on the offensive end, control the boards and keep up with the Nuggets’ running game.
Offense — They have eight players averaging in double figures and have a good mix of inside and outside game with Gallinari, Nene, Martin, J.R. Smith and Chandler.
Defense — Defend the Spurs’ drive and kick game and limit Ginobili, Parker and Jefferson’s dribble penetrations and be wary of the Spurs’ outside shooters.
Spurs — Tim Duncan – left ankle (out).
Nuggets — Raymond Felton – left ankle (day-to-day), Arron Afflalo – hamstring (out).
PREDICTION: The Nuggets are playing one of their best basketball lately, they have good balance on offense and are the number one scoring team in the league.
However, the Spurs are a veteran team that knows what it takes to win. This will be a good test for their defense and a great time for Tiago Splitter to step up in Duncan’s absence. Expect a high scoring game, the team that makes the stops in the critical fourth quarter will win. The Spurs will win it 117-113.
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