There’s no substitute for experience. Nowhere does that tired-but-cliché sentiment ring truer than in the NBA postseason. Up and coming young teams earn postseason berths each year thanks to aggressively attacking the 82-game regular season schedule.
But the playoffs are a different animal altogether, and a seven-game series against a common opponent must be attacked as such. No team knows this better than the San Antonio Spurs, who under Gregg Popovich have made an NBA-record 22 consecutive playoff appearances.
Though the players have changed, and 2019 marked the first time since 1997 that one of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker weren’t on the roster, the results have stayed the same. This team is consistent as ever and bookmakers for NBA betting know they're still one of the best.
As Nuggets head coach Mike Malone correctly stated prior to the series, “Gregg Popovich has five (championship) rings. I’ve got a wedding ring.”
Spurs Make Early Statement
The Nuggets won 54 games in the regular season, their fourth most in franchise history, and had the No. 8 net rating in the NBA (4.0). None of that mattered in Game 1 when the Spurs handled them 101-96 for an unlikely road victory.
Point guard Derrick White had 16 points, five assists and a critical late steal, LaMarcus Aldridge added 15 points and Bryn Forbes added three triples in the victory. DeMar DeRozan, in his Spurs debut – and on the same day his former Toronto team lost a Game 1 – had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
It was a vintage Popovich/Spurs win and might have been the start of putting DeRozan in the category of the Spurs legends before him. For now, they’ll enjoy the 1-0 series lead. Popovich’s group was 28-20 in the regular season after a win, 10th best in the NBA, so they know how to carry momentum and run with it.
Will Spurs Soon Be Favorites?
The Nuggets have retained their status as favorites…barely. San Antonio’s Game 1 win means they need to win four of six games, and the series odds reflect it. Denver is a -117 pick to win the series, with the Spurs close behind at -105 on 888Sport.
The Spurs were 5.5-point underdogs in Game 1 and are now seven-point underdogs in Game 2. That reasoning is twofold: It’s likely the Nuggets come out firing on Tuesday knowing the kind of hole they’d be in down 2-0 heading to San Antonio.
Also, the Nuggets were 34-7 at home this season straight-up and 25-16 against the spread, fifth best in the NBA. Three of those losses came consecutively in November when the team got off to a 10-7 start. From Dec. 1 on, the Nuggets were 28-4 straight-up and 20-12 against the spread. Odds are they’re going to bounce back to even up the series.
Nuggets Are Resilient
Where the Nuggets lack in experience they more than make up for in talent. It’s not easy being the No. 2 seed in the dreaded Western Conference.
This is a team with excellent coaching, depth and star power. Between Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Will Barton, this team has more than enough firepower to play deep into May. It’s why they’re not showing any panic after a Game 1 loss.
But they’re going to need to rebound better than they did in the regular season. The Nuggets were 16-12 after losses this season, 11th best in the NBA but only 8th best in the Western Conference. Their lulls can last, and if they’re not careful it could have them in an 0-2 hole.
For what it’s worth, the Nuggets were 12-16 against the spread after a loss, fifth worst in the NBA.