Spurs Sputter in Playoffs Game 1

Written by Randy Watson

The Western Conference Finals got underway Sunday, but the Spurs team that had been the hottest in the NBA since the All-Star break failed to show up.  Instead, for large parts of the game San Antonio, who many say are the best defensive team in the NBA, were stifled by the defense of the normally offensive-minded Denver Nuggets.  Unfortunately for the Spurs, it was a familiar feeling.

 When the two teams last met in Round 1 of the 2005 playoffs, Denver took the first game of that series as well.  Then the Spurs reeled off four straight before going on to win the NBA Championship.  If San Antonio is hoping for a repeat performance, they had better step up their game.  This year’s Nugget team features far more firepower than the 2005 version, let by the duo of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, who combined for 61 points on Sunday.

For the Spurs, times were fairly tough for San Antonio’s stars.  Tim Duncan had an awful first half, but came on strong in the second to finish with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.  Tony Parker led the team with 19 points and 8 assists.  Robert Horry, who had been limited for the last few weeks of the season, was also strong off the bench, scoring 14 points.

The Spurs were outrebounded 44-35, and in perhaps the most telling statistic, free throws, San Antonio made 7-10, while Denver shot 21-25 from the stripe.  None of San Antonio’s big three of Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan shot over 50% from the field.

If any team is able to shrug off a first game defeat, it should be the Spurs.  This veteran team has been in this exact position before, but this year’s Nuggets are a far better team than they were three months ago, and also seem to be finding their chemistry just in time for the post-season.  Shutting down Anthony and Iverson is a tall order, but for a team that prides itself on defense such as the Spurs, San Antonio should come out more aggressive and determined in Game 2.

Game Final, Nuggets: 95, Spurs 89

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