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The Denver Nuggets are in the playoffs for the first time in six years, and they know lapses vs. the San Antonio Spurs won’t cut it.
“Gregg Popovich has five rings,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I have a wedding ring.”
Still, the Nuggets are the No. 2 seed, Popovich and the Spurs the No. 7. That means the Nuggets are favored and have home-court advantage in their Western Conference first-round series.
But Malone is right. The Spurs are no ordinary opponent.
Popovich’s teams tend to play their best when it means the most. The Spurs have always been built for the playoffs.
“It’s going to test us,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Disciplined team.”
The Nuggets and Spurs each won two of their four-game series. Because the Nuggets are considered new to this whole thing, and don’t have one of the game’s biggest names, and don’t play in its largest market … well, a lot of people don’t seem to expect much from them.
But they believe, provided they continue to play like they did during the regular season, when Nikola Jokic, Murray, Gary Harris and others proved to be the perfect fit.
Mostly, Malone and his staff has installed something that the Nuggets believe can lift them when the shots aren’t falling.
“Our mentality,” swingman Will Barton said. “We just gotta go in there with that, it’s a war. It’s going to be an all-out brawl. Every minute, every second, every quarter, it’s going to be a fight. Every game. And we gotta be ready to have that mentality from the beginning.”