NBA Playoffs Game 3 - San Antonio Spurs (-2, 193) at Denver Nuggets 8:00 PM ET
Denver could have hardly performed better than it did in San Antonio. The Nuggets were the aggressor and took Game 1, withstood a ferocious defensive effort by the Spurs in Game 2, trailing by 17 points at one juncture, only to close it to three measly points with less then a minute to play.
While they did not get the win or the cover, George Karlís club earned a split and is ready for the first home game in the Mile High City.
What Denver needs to do to win as 2-point home underdogs, as noted at sportsbook.com, is to receive contributions from someone other than Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. In first game of this potential best of seven series, the twin peaks accounted for 64.2 percent of the Denver offense, each scoring over 30 points.
Coach Greg Popovich altered the focus of his defense to not allow A.I. to have as many uncontested shots near the rim and Iverson responded by missing six shots within two feet of the cup. Still he and Anthony were 52.2 percent of offense in the second contest.
When Denver made 4th quarter rally against the Spurs, they did so in the most proactive of ways, balance. In the first 11 minutes of the final stanza, Nene was a factor in the paint, guard Steve Blake either scored or handed out one of his total of 8 assists. Even Linas Kleiza made a few creative moves near the basket.
This was all done without Iverson needlessly dominating the ball or Anthony measuring up some defender. When they play this way, Denver is so much more effective and San Antonio is 3-13 ATS in road games versus good shooting teams - making 46% or more of their shots this season.
San Antonio appears to have one decided edge between these teams and that is making George Karl nauseous. In the first two games the Spurs bench has chipped in with 66 points compared to Denverís unlucky 13.
Having Manu Ginobili coming off the chair is a big help, ala John Havlicek back from the Boston glory days of the late 1960ís and 70ís.
Karl frustration with the media asking about the disparity spilled out this way, ''Just because (Robert) Horry and Ginobili come off the bench doesn't mean they're not their top-five players,'' Karl said. ''All I'm saying is for six weeks when we go 10-1 (to end the season), no one talked about our bench. No one said, 'Hey, they're not playing well.' We're playing the same bench. Maybe a tighter leash, not much. If you're bringing Manu off the bench, it's different. You're bringing your starter off the bench.''
The Nuggets will bring the knowledge of being 22-6 ATS revenging a same season loss vs. opponent this season.
Game three will bring another drop in the total, now down to 193 after a pair of games falling below the number. This is further exacerbated by the fact that five of last seven have gone Under the total at the Pepsi Center and these two Western Conference teams have played Under 14 of the last 18 times.
The Spurs are 13-4 Under after a game where they made 85% of their free throws or better and Denver 11-1 Under in the first round of the playoffs over the last three seasons.
This is a big test of intestinal fortitude for Denver who is 3-5 and 5-3 ATS as a home underdog this season.
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