Spurs-Denver Nuggets first-round playoff series schedule
Game 1: Spurs at Nuggets, Saturday, 9:30 p.m.
Game 2: Spurs at Nuggets, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Game 3: Nuggets at Spurs, Thursday, April 18, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Nuggets at Spurs, Saturday, April 20, 4:30 p.m.
Game 5*: Spurs at Nuggets, Tuesday, April 23, TBD
Game 6*: Nuggets at Spurs, Thursday, April 25, TBD
Game 7*: Spurs at Nuggets, Saturday, April 27, TBD
* If necessary
(All times central)
(The Spurs-Nuggets playoff history is at the bottom of the story.)
SAN ANTONIO – Tony Parker said it time and again during his stellar 17-year career with the Spurs: To win an NBA championship, a team must be able to win on the road.
And therein lies the challenge for the Silver and Black, who struggled to win on opponents’ home courts for the second year in a row. San Antonio went 16-25 on the road, and won back-to-back road games only twice this season.
“We’ve got to embrace that adversity on the road,” Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said Friday after practice. “Turn that into a fun challenge. Understand that this is where the best got to come out of you.”
In the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season, the Silver and Black open their first-round series in Denver on Saturday night. The Nuggets (54-28) and Spurs (48-34) advanced to the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds, respectively.
“It’s 0-0,” DeRozan said. “Everything starts off fresh. Everything is going to be completely different, intensity, everything. Everybody’s approach, knowing one another to the T. We’ve got to go in there with the mentality of don’t expect nothing to be given to us, understand that everything’s going to be tough, and go out there and play our game.”
San Antonio and Denver split four games during the regular season, with the home team winning each time. The Nuggets routed the Silver and Black 113-85 on April 3 in the second night of a back-to-back for San Antonio.
“We’ve had a couple of days and we’ve played them a couple of times, so hopefully we’ll figure them out . . . before Game 7,” forward Rudy Gay said with a chuckle.
The Spurs and Nuggets will meet in the playoffs for the seventh time, but haven’t clashed in the postseason in 12 years. San Antonio eliminated Denver in the first round in 2007, winning four of five games in the series. The Silver and Black are 20-6 in postseason games against the Nuggets, who have won a series against San Antonio only once. Denver eliminated the Spurs in the first round in 1985, taking the series 3-2.
The postseason will be the first with the Spurs for DeRozan, who went to the playoffs each of the past five seasons with the Toronto Raptors. He played in Toronto for nine seasons before being traded to San Antonio in the blockbuster deal last summer that sent Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors.
Asked what he can take from his five playoff runs with Toronto, DeRozan said: “Man, the roller coaster of emotions that come with it. Win or lose the game, you’ve got to be able to understand that the next game is going to be even tougher.
“Every possession counts. No more, ‘My bad.’ Just out there smelling blood. You’ve got to go out there and want to win every single possession that you can, so you come out with the victory.”
Denver finished only three games behind defending champion Golden State in the Western Conference and went a league-best 34-7 at home.
“They’re really good,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I’m thrilled for (Nuggets coach) Mike Malone. He’s done a great job, got everybody buying into the system. (They’re) unselfish, play together. He’s worked his way into the position he’s in now, and he’s reaping the rewards. He’s done a hell of a job.”
The playoff series will be a homecoming for Spurs point guard Derrick White, who grew up in Parker, Colo, about 35 miles south of Denver.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” White said. “They had the best record at home in the league, so you’ve just got to focus on the game plan, go out there and try to get Game 1.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The series shifts to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is set for next Thursday night at the AT&T Center.
Spurs-Nuggets playoff history
(Spurs are 5-1 against Nuggets in postseason series)
2007: Spurs 4-1, Western Conference first round
2005: Spurs 4-1, Western Conference first round
1995: Spurs 3-0, Western Conference first round
1990: Spurs 3-0, Western Conference first round
1985: Nuggets 3-2, Western Conference first round
1983: Spurs 4-1, Western Conference semifinals
(Spurs are 20-6 against Nuggets in postseason games)
Spurs-Nuggets 2018-19 season series
April 3: Nuggets 113, Spurs 85, at Denver
March 4: Spurs 104, Nuggets 103, San Antonio
Dec. 28: Nuggets 102, Spurs 99, Denver
Dec. 26: Spurs 111, Nuggets 103, San Antonio
(Spurs lead all-time regular-season series 118-69)