Numbers preview: Denver Nuggets (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)

NBA.com Global on Apr 13, 2019 07:55 PM
Numbers preview: Nuggets (2) vs. Spurs (7)
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By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

The Denver Nuggets responded to their last-night-of-the-season elimination last season by finishing with the second best record in the Western Conference. They were the only Western Conference team to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

But are the Nuggets a No. 2 seed primed for a first-round upset? They have three starters -- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic -- who have never played a minute in the postseason. And their first-round opponent -- the San Antonio Spurs -- has a coach who has been on the bench for 66,981 minutes of playoff basketball over the last 22 years.

The Nuggets, of course, have home-court advantage. And these are two teams that have played much better at home than they have on the road.

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Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 2-7 series in the West.

Denver Nuggets (54-28)

Pace: 98.5 (26)
OffRtg: 112.1 (7)
DefRtg: 108.0 (10)
NetRtg: +4.0 (8)

Nuggets notes - General:

1. Ranked in the bottom 10 in pace for the first time in the 23 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.

2. The only team that has seen an improvement in point differential per 100 possessions in each of the last four seasons, going from minus-3.3 in 2014-16 to plus-4.0 this season.

3. Were 13.1 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-10.6, third in the league) than they were on the road (minus-2.5, 16th). That was the league's biggest home-road NetRtg differential.

4. Were a league-best 43-5 after leading by double-digits and a league-best 43-1 when leading after the third quarter.

5. Had the league's best record (31-15) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.

Nuggets notes - Offense:

1. Ranked second in assist percentage, recording assists on 65.3 percent of their field goals. Ranked 21st in player movement (11.1 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possessions), but sixth in ball movement (354 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.

2. Led the league in offensive rebounding percentage (grabbing 30.8 percent of available offensive boards) and second chance points per game (15.5).

3. Ranked 29th in pull-up 3-point percentage (29.5 percent).

Nuggets notes - Defense:

1. Ended a streak of five straight seasons as a bottom-10 defense. Were the league's third most improved defensive team, allowing 1.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season.

2. Had the league's best clutch defense, allowing just 95.3 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

3. Led the league in opponent 3-point percentage (33.9 percent). Also led the league in opponent 3-point percentage in the clutch (20.2 percent).

4. Only 13.8 percent of opponent possessions, the league's second lowest opponent rate, were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking.

Nuggets notes - Lineups:

1. Starting lineup - Murray, Harris, Barton, Millsap and Jokic - played a league-high 384 minutes after the All-Star break, having played just 46 minutes together before the break.

2. The Barton lineup was their best (plus-8.3 per 100 possessions) among the three lineups that included Murray, Harris, Millsap and Jokic and played at least 100 minutes.

3. Best on-court NetRtg among three-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Murray, Beasley and Jokic. The Nuggets outscored their opponents by 12.3 points per 100 possessions in 608 minutes with the trio on the floor together.

Nuggets notes - Individuals:

1. Malik Beasley scored 0.462 points per touch, the fourth highest rate among 339 players with at least 1,000 total touches.

2. Nikola Jokic ranked second with 12 triple-doubles. He ranked ninth in the league with 7.3 assists per game, the third most assists per game from a center in NBA history, lower than only two seasons from Wilt Chamberlain (8.6 per game in 1967-68 and 7.8 per game in '66-67).

3. Jokic led the league in both touches (92.2) and passes made (70.2) per game.

4. Only two percent (6/270) of Jokic's 3-point attempts came from the corners. That was the second lowest rate among 262 players with at least 100 total 3-point attempts.

5. Trey Lyles (from 38.1 percent last season to 25.5 percent this season) and Jokic (from 39.6 percent to 30.7 percent) saw the biggest and third biggest drops in 3-point percentage, respectively, among 112 players with at least 200 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons.

6. Paul Millsap had his lowest scoring season (12.6 points per game) of the last nine years. But his effective field goal percentage (52.8 percent) and true shooting percentage (57.0 percent) were both his highest marks of the last eight.

7. Monte Morris ranked second in assist/turnover ratio (5.35).

8. Morris scored 1.07 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the second best mark among 81 players with at least 200 ball-handler possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking.

9. Morris shot 53.5 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, the second best mark among 133 players who attempted at least 100. Jokic (50.9 percent) has the seventh best mark.

10.Jamal Murray led the league with 1.1 secondary assists per game.

11. Mason Plumlee scored 1.40 points per possession as a roll man, the second best mark among 51 players with at least 100 roll-man possessions.

San Antonio Spurs (48-34)

Pace: 98.9 (22)
OffRtg: 112.2 (6)
DefRtg: 110.5 (20)
NetRtg: +1.6 (12)

Spurs notes - General:

1. Have made the playoffs in 22 straight seasons, tying the all-time record held by the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (1950-1971). Have won 191 more regular season games over those 22 years than any other franchise.

2. Had the league's biggest home-road differential in winning percentage. Were 32-9 (tied for third best) at home and 16-25 (16th best) on the road. They were 1-11 on the road vs. the other seven Western Conference playoff teams.

Spurs notes - Offense:

1. Ranked sixth in player movement (11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), but 25th in ball movement (319 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.

2. Led the league in 3-point percentage (39.2 percent), but took only 28.6 percent of their shots, the league's lowest rate, from 3-point range.

3. Also led the league in free throw percentage (81.9 percent), though they ranked 24th in free throw rate (23.7 attempts per 100 shots from the field).

4. Only 10.8 percent of their possessions, the league's lowest rate, were in transition.

5. Averaged 19.1 post-ups per game, second most in the league.

Spurs notes - Defense:

1. Allowed more points per 100 possessions than the league average for the first time in the last 22 seasons. Had ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency in 18 of the last 21 seasons (including each of the last six).

2. Allowed 3.5 fewer points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break (108.0, 10th in the league) than they did before the break (111.5, 22nd). That was the league's second biggest post-break, DefRtg improvement.

3. Allowed 1.19 points per possession, the league's highest rate, in transition.

4. Averaged 11.3 deflections per game, fewest in the league.

Spurs notes - Lineups:

1. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge played 2,242 minutes together, second most among any pair of teammates. The Spurs outscored their opponents by just 0.5 points per 100 possessions with the pair on the floor.

2. Lineup of White, Forbes, DeRozan, Gay and Aldridge attempted just 18.4 free throws per 100 shots from the field, the third lowest rate among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.

3. Davis Bertans led the league in total plus-minus (plus-320) off the bench. The Spurs were 10.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-7.6) than they were with him off the floor (minus-2.5). That was the biggest on-off NetRtg differential among players who played at least 1,000 total minutes and came off the bench in more games than they started.

4. The Spurs' best on-court NetRtg among three-man combinations that played at least 500 minutes together belonged to their bench group of Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Bertans. They outscored their opponents by 11.0 points per 100 possessions in 739 minutes with the trio on the floor together.

Spurs notes - Individuals:

1. LaMarcus Aldridge (572) and DeMar DeRozan (553) ranked first and second in total mid-range attempts. Among 42 players with at least 200 mid-range attempts, Aldridge (44.9 percent) ranked 14th and DeRozan (40.5 percent) ranked 28th in mid-range field goal percentage.

2. Aldridge led the league with 9.7 box outs per game.

3. Marco Belinelli is one of three players (Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard are the others) to have shot 90 percent or better on at least 100 free throw attempts in each of the last two seasons.

4. Davis Bertans took 75 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That was the fourth highest rate among 274 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts.

5. Bertans had an effective field goal percentage of 50.0 percent after the All-Star break, down from 66.4 percent before the break. That was the biggest drop-off among 202 players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and at least 100 after it.

6. DeRozan took only 28 percent of his shots from the restricted area or 3-point range. That was the lowest rate among 274 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts. He did shoot 69.6 percent in the restricted area, the second best mark among guards with at least 200 restricted area attempts per game.

7. Bryn Forbes shot 45.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the fifth best mark among 101 players who attempted at least 200.

8. Rudy Gay had an effective field goal percentage of 55.3 percent on pull-up jumpers, the second best mark among 100 players who attempted at least 200. Only 29 of his 255 pull-up attempts came from 3-point range. He shot 52.2 percent on all mid-range jumpers, the second best mark among 42 players who attempted at least 200.

9. Patty Mills (155), Belinelli (145) and Bertans (123) ranked third, fifth and ninth, respectively, in total 3-pointers off the bench.

10. Derrick White blocked 1.0 shots per 36 minutes, second most among 121 players shorter than 6-7 who played at least 1,000 minutes.

Regular season matchup

Season series: Series tied, 2-2 (home team won all 4 games)
Dec. 26 (Dec. 27, PHL time) @ San Antonio - Spurs 111, Nuggets 103
Dec. 28 (Dec. 29, PHL time) @ Denver - Nuggets 102, Spurs 99
Mar. 4 (Mar. 5, PHL time) @ San Antonio - Spurs 104, Nuggets 103
Apr. 3 (Apr. 4, PHL time) @ Denver - Nuggets 113, Spurs 85

Pace: 95.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Denver OffRtg: 109.9 (17th vs. San Antonio)
San Antonio OffRtg: 103.9 (20th vs. Denver)

Matchup notes:

1. Gary Harris, Will Barton and Paul Millsap all missed the two December meetings, in which the Nuggets started a lineup of Murray, Craig, Hernangomez, Plumlee and Jokic. The Spurs had all nine of their regular rotation players for all four games.

2. The Spurs started Jakob Poeltl in each of the last two meetings, though their other starting lineup - White, Forbes, DeRozan, Gay and Aldridge - played in all four and was a plus-13 in 37 total minutes against the Nuggets. The Spurs were a plus-8 in 28 minutes against Denver with Aldridge and Poeltl on the floor together, even though they shot 2-for-13 from 3-point range in those minutes.

3. Overall, the Spurs shot 31-for-111 (28 percent) from 3-point range, their worst mark against any opponent this season. Belinelli (7-for-21), Bertans (4-for-13), Gay (1-for-15), Mills (4-for-17) and White (3-for-16) all shot 33 percent or worse on at least 13 attempts.

4. Gay had an effective field goal percentage of 32.2 percent, the worst mark among 95 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Spurs this season. White (37.5 percent) had the fifth worst mark.

5. In the March 4 meeting, the Nuggets had 95 field goal attempts and just four free throw attempts. That was the lowest free throw rate for any team in any game this season. Their free throw rate was below the league average (25.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field) in all four meetings.

6. Aldridge and DeRozan combined to shoot 52-for-71 (73 percent) in the paint against the Nuggets.

7. Jokic had an effective field goal percentage of 74.4 percent, the best mark among 98 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Spurs this season. He also averaged 4.8 turnovers, the most he averaged against any Western Conference opponent.

8. Aldridge was the primary defender on Jokic, though the Spurs had a little more success (holding the Nuggets to just 72 points on 71 possessions) when Poeltl was defending him. The Nuggets, meanwhile, were pretty successful (holding the Spurs to just 129 points on 130 possessions) when Jokic was matched up with Aldridge on the other end of the floor.

9. Nobody defended Murray this season more than White. On those possessions, Murray shot a lot more often than he usually does, but the Nuggets scored less efficiently than they usually do.

10. DeRozan shot 7-for-18 (39 percent) on possessions in which he was defended by Torrey Craig and 23-for-37 (62 percent) against the Nuggets otherwise.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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