Finley's Fine Shooting Finishes NuggetsMichael Finley scored 26 points and set a Spurs playoff record with eight three pointers as San Antonio beat Denver 93-78, winning their first round playoff series 4-1. Tim Duncan had 23 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and one blocked shot but the biggest number that you can attach to his name is .377: that is the Nuggets' shooting percentage in this game. The Spurs have always ranked at or near the top of the NBA in defensive field goal percentage since Duncan entered the league and this game provided a perfect example of why this is the case. Duncan only blocked one shot but he altered many others. Whenever a Denver player entered the paint he had to contend with Duncan. The Nuggets pose tough matchup problems for most teams because they have two players who often have to be double-teamed: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Yet the Spurs held both of them below their normal scoring averages and shooting percentages; Anthony scored 21 points on 8-20 shooting and had no assists, while Iverson scored 21 points on 6-22 shooting, adding eight assists. Bruce Bowen alternated between guarding Anthony and guarding Iverson but he had the freedom to drape himself over either player like flypaper because if they got past him then they had to finish over Duncan in the paint.
Denver showed good fighting spirit in this game, though. The Spurs jumped out to a 37-27 lead but the Nuggets battled back and were in front 48-44 at halftime. The Spurs did not score in the last 3:08 of the half and the Nuggets went on a 10-0 run, capped by two Steve Blake three pointers in the last :31. However, the Spurs scored the first seven points of the third quarter to recapture the lead and they never trailed again. Finley made three of his three pointers in the fourth quarter as the Spurs outscored the Nuggets 30-19 in the final stanza.
The first round features eight playoff series, so it is obvious that not all of them will receive equal attention. Chicago's sweep of defending champion Miami certainly opened some eyes, any series involving Phoenix' Steve Nash and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant will always draw interest and Golden State-Dallas has captured the imagination of a lot of people--but the Spurs just quietly and efficiently took four straight games from a team that was peaking at the end of the season and has two potent scorers plus the Defensive Player of the Year. The Spurs are not worried about flying under the radar now because they plan to still be playing a month or so from now in the NBA Finals.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:31 AM