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The Angles: The Value on the Spurs’ Point Total in Game 3

Credit:

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10), Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15).

  • Matt Moore runs down his thoughts on the Nuggets and Spurs ahead of Game 3 and analyzes the value on the point total.

Some extended thoughts on Nuggets-Spurs (-4.5). Take a look at our complete betting guide.

I buried the Nuggets in the third quarter when it got to 19. Will Barton hit the side of the backboard on a 3-pointer and that, to me, was it. At 5:45 in the third quarter, Michael Malone called timeout and told this young team he’s brought along that he cared about them and that they have to stop playing like every missed shot is the end of the world. Out of that timeout, Barton took the inbounds, sliced immediately through three defenders full-court and dunked it.

From the start of Game 1 through 5:45 of the third, the Nuggets shot 59-of-146 for 40.4%. From that timeout, after which Harris immediately threw down that hammer, to the end of Game 2, Denver shot 21-of-31 for 67.7%.

Now the question is, was that regression to the mean? Or the outlier? Did the Nuggets uncork the bottle or just get a slight sputter from the hose that’s about to be kinked back up?

One thing that hasn’t been covered much given the Nuggets’ shooting issues and the overall narratives of the Nuggets being supposed frauds is how good their defense was. Nikola Jokic has a 96.1 defensive rating in this series and even with a clunky, low-efficiency-designed team in San Antonio, there’s real work being down.

On a key late possession, Jokic hedged perfectly vs. DeMar DeRozan, forced him to pick up his dribble, deflected the ball into the air on the pass attempt and when DeRozan made the save with the clock winding down, Malik Beasley pressured the smaller Forbes without fouling:

Jokic is phenomenal at deflections, it’s how he counters his lack of mobility. Aldridge should take this pick-and-pop every time. He tries to drive here and Jokic swipes to interrupt him:

You can file this under “both teams will live with this.” The Spurs accept this as being DeRozan’s game, and the Nuggets will always take this kind of shot.

DeRozan has been killer on drives right into short-range jumpers, and attacking the rim. But when he settles for those 20-foot jumpers, it’s just never going to return value for San Antonio:

Via @presidual on Twitter

Jamal Murray was always the most fascinating player to watch in this matchup. When he was 0-for-8 from the field, he was as shook as any first-time-playoff player I’ve ever seen. Then he got a pair of free throws, and things just clicked. A lot of his shots weren’t “good,” the same way DeRozan’s weren’t. That’s just the kind of players both guys are.

Paul Millsap has done work in this series. He’s figured out more and more that he can attack out of the triple-threat face-up from the post and that’s forcing mayhem. This is the kind of shot Denver has gotten all series with how the Spurs are sending doubles, and in the fourth quarter they finally started hitting.

However, given that role players tend to struggle shooting on the road and the Nuggets’ poor shooting over the past two months, they may struggle here in Game 3.

The bigger key is that the Spurs are 14-of-35 with a 54% effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot opportunities in this series. At home, where they are likely to shoot better, and where it will be more difficult for the Nuggets to maintain their discipline, there’s a good chance the Spurs actually get something close to a good shot profile, which they didn’t have in Denver.  San Antonio got the split thanks to some horrifically bad shooting in a good-shooting situation in Game 1.

With how the series tilts, it’s likely Game 3 is the best spot for the Spurs to outscore Denver in the 3-point game going forward assuming the Nuggets don’t continue to hurl brick after brick in the air like they’re shot out of a very skewed catapult.

The pace the Spurs run at and a likely night struggling for the Nuggets on their jumper makes the over a cautious play, but San Antonio’s 106.5 team total seems likely given that despite the split, the Spurs didn’t shoot great in the Mile High City.

For more on the zillion reasons to take the Spurs (-4.5), click here.

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