Injury-depleted Spurs welcome Nuggets to San Antonio
There are plenty of variables for the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets that will be in play when the two teams square off Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Some of them have been created by injuries, some by personal issues and others by momentum and differences in playing style.
The Spurs head home after a 93-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Three starters -- forward Kawhi Leonard (torn muscle in left shoulder), and guards Tony Parker (sprained right ankle) and Danny Green (left groin tightness) -- did not play.
It was the third straight missed game for Leonard, who missed the first 27 games of the season with a quad injury. Reserve forward Rudy Gay also sat out his seventh straight game for San Antonio (28-15) with right heel bursitis.
Leonard, Parker and Green are all listed as questionable for Saturday's contest while Gay has already been ruled out.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half for the Spurs against the Lakers while guard Bryn Forbes scored 18 points and guard Dejounte Murray added 14 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio in the loss. The Spurs rallied from a 19-point first quarter deficit, and took a brief third-quarter lead.
San Antonio was ultimately doomed by 21 turnovers, eight of them in the final quarter.
"That was a pathetic performance by our team, and a lot of the reason for it was the way the Lakers played," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were very physical, much more physical than we were. Their desire was at a totally different level than ours was. In that sense, we were pathetic."
Denver (22-20) heads to the Alamo City on the heels of an 87-78 home victory over Memphis on Friday that snapped a three-game losing streak. The Nuggets got 17 points from guard Will Barton in the win, with reserve guard Trey Lyles scoring 16 points. Forward Nikola Jokic added 14 and Jamal Murray contributed 11 points.
The Nuggets' bench enjoyed a 33-22 advantage over Memphis' reserves and Denver outrebounded the Grizzlies 47-36.
After missing Friday's game against Memphis to tend to a "private family matter," Nuggets coach Michael Malone is hopeful leading scorer Gary Harris can rejoin the team for Saturday's contest at San Antonio.
"All I'll say on that is -- obviously, our thoughts are with (Harris) and his family," Malone said.
Harris, who was back at home in Indiana on Friday, is averaging 16.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from 3-point range for the season. He is shooting 62.2 percent from the floor in January and has averaged 22.6 points over his past five games.
After the bruising Jokic took only two free throws in Wednesday's loss to Atlanta, Malone said Friday that the Nuggets' staff compiled a tape to send to the league office with examples of when they believe he was fouled.
Malone said Jokic, who was 7 of 8 from the line Friday against Memphis, has to stay true to his game and not worry about not getting calls from the referees.
"Nikola kind of loses it a little bit," Malone said "And that's not good for anybody. ... We need him to be locked in and focused just on playing and doing his job, and let me worry about the referees."
This will be the first of four meetings this season.
San Antonio won all three games against the Nuggets in 2016-17 and has not lost to Denver at home since March 2012.
Updated January 13, 2018