Now fast forward to the month of April when the Nuggets finally sorted out all their chemistry problems, came together as one collective unit, and ripped off a 10-1 record including wins over some of the NBA’s elite in playoff type atmospheres. Not to mention a game where we all saw San Antonio’s second tier get blown out, 100-77, by the Nuggets bench players. Many of which will never even see the light of day when real stakes are on the line!
So, how do these two teams stack up? Well, I’m happy to say real good if you’re a Nuggets fan.
At the point, the Spurs may have the edge with Tony Parker, but Steve Blake is asked to do one thing and one thing only and that is command this team with a sense of cool collectiveness. Sure, Parker is averaging 18.6 points to Blake’s 6.4, but Blake is a cool customer handling the rock with only 1.5 turnovers per game, while handing out just as many assists.
When it comes to shooting guards, the Nuggets have one of the best playoff performers the NBA has ever seen in Allen Iverson. The Spurs will most likely start Michael Finley, but we all know the real match-up at the two is with Manu Ginobili. While Manu’s flopping and herky-jerky offensive style is going to be something that surely annoys me, I’ll take AI over the Argentinean any day! Also keep in mind that when AI reaches ten assists the Nuggets are nearly unbeatable with a 12-1 record. So, when it all boils down, Finley or Ginobili can’t make a case against AI. He is a warrior in the postseason and the advantage goes to the Nuggets!
Now for the battle at the three. On the one hand, the Spurs have a perennial NBA First Team defender in Bruce Bowen. On the other, the Nuggets have one of the most lethal scorers in the game today in Carmelo Anthony. Maybe in years past Bowen was capable of getting in Carmelo’s head and disrupting his game, but the past is the past, and I for one do not live in it. Carmelo has refined his game on all forefronts and is equally capable of scoring in the blocks as he is stroking that tender jumper from anywhere inside 18 feet. Add in that he is quickly improving on his three-pointer and you have a scoring phenom in the makings. Once again, the advantage goes to the Nuggets.
At the four spot the Spurs have been able to rely on the workman mentality of arguably one of the all-time best power forwards in Tim Duncan for the last decade and the Nuggets are developing one of the NBA’s next big things at the position with Nene. Duncan brings to the table season averages of 20 points and eight rebounds that are both down from years past. Nene, in his first full season back from knee injury, posted averages of 12 points and seven boards, but that is not the full story. In just the last five games of the regular season, Big Brazil was averaging 18 points and a shade more than nine squeezes a night. So, give or take a rebound and a bucket here and there, you’re looking at what fans in powder blue would argue could be a coming of age at the power forward position. Conventional wisdom says the Spurs get the advantage on this one, but I’m telling you that this match-up is not going to be the one that swings the series. Both men are going to have their moments, but Nene is going to be a handful for Timmy to guard and on the other end of the floor Big Brazil doesn’t take any crap from anyone!
Now, if you’re keeping track of how the advantages were dealt you know that it is dead even at two apiece. Tony Parker gets the nod over Stevie B, I like AI over Manu the flopper, Carmelo will at least double Bruce Bowen in points scored in the series, and Nene and Tim Duncan at the four is intriguing to say the least. The men in the middle are going to be the difference in game one and the Nuggets are facing an old friend in Francisco Elson.
Do you remember ol’ Franny when he played for the Nuggets? Well, if not, please allow me to refresh your memory as to why the Nuggets dealt him! The seven-footer from the Netherlands never averaged more than five points or five rebounds while in Denver, despite seeing more than 20 minutes per game in this last year. He was a piece to the Nuggets puzzle that just couldn’t find a way to fit in and luckily for us he will be matching up with Marcus Camby AKA The Captain.
The Camby-man is the decisive advantage that the Nuggets starting five has over the cast of the San Antonio Spurs. He brings averages of 11 points, 11 rebounds, better than three rejections, and three assists while locking down the paint for Denver. Anything less than completely dominating Francisco Elson would be a travesty seeing as it is essentially a match-up of last year’s starter vs. a guy that couldn’t barely get in the box score coming off the Denver bench. Obviously, the advantage goes strongly to Camby.
Throw the seeding out the window and I think you have one of the most exciting first round playoff match-ups in the last five years. I’ve broken down how the starting fives stack up head-to-head with the Nuggets of now having a slight advantage of the Spurs. Chemistry and cool will be the true deciding factor in who steals victory in game one and I can’t wait for this one to get underway!