Spurs start playoffs in Denver tonight

Must beat Nuggets and altitude

DeMar DeRozan meets with the media at Spurs shootaround prior to Game 1

DENVER – The San Antonio Spurs, No. 7 in the Western Conference, will open the 2019 NBA postseason at Denver tonight as 5.5-point underdogs. Denver is the No. 2 seed in the West and dominated at home this season going 34-7, the best home record in the NBA. 

"They move the ball extremely well," Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan told reporters after morning shootaround. "They play extremely well together. They are an extremely well-balanced team. To their bench, their starting five. And you've got (Nikola) Jokic leading the way. 

Spurs guard Derrick White is a Colorado native and ready to face Denver after a successful sophomore season in the NBA.

"They've done well all year," White said. "They have the best record at home, and they play really well together. Their bench is strong. Their starters play well together, so it's definitely a challenge." 

DeRozan has 51 NBA playoff games under his belt, all with the Toronto Raptors. This postseason contest will be his first one with the Spurs. He was asked if getting ready for this playoff series was any different to past ones now that Gregg Popovich is his head coach.

"Pop just got a certain poise to him," DeRozan said. "Sometimes it's not much that needs to be said, but what's said is understood, so as long as you listen and apply it. His calm before the storm is definitely the difference, for sure." 

The Spurs and Nuggets split the regular-season series 2-2, with both teams winning at home. The Nuggets won the most recent matchup 10 days ago in Denver 113-85, the most lopsided game between the two sides this season. 

"We are familiar with them," Nuggets power forward Mason Plumlee said. "I think the last game here was a little different in that Pop was out (he was ejected after 63 seconds) and they sat some guys out down the stretch. We are familiar with the Spurs, and we look forward to the matchup."

One hot topic entering this series is the Spurs' handling of Denver's high altitude. There's a hallway inside the Pepsi Center that reads "Welcome to the Mile High CIty 5,280' above sea level." It's a friendly reminder to opposing teams that the air is thin up here, which is not lost on the Nuggets, either.

"We are still getting used to it," Nuggets guard Gary Harris said with a chuckle. "You know, we leave for a few days, you come back, you know you feel the altitude, so we have to use that to our advantage."

Game 1 is tonight. Game 2 is Tuesday night before the series shifts to San Antonio.  

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