NBA fans and bettors had the chance of having four Game 6s in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday, but three of the series ended in Game 5 on Tuesday. The Philadelphia 76ers blasted the Brooklyn Nets to advance, and the Toronto Raptors did the same to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.
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Out West, the Portland Trail Blazers eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in a thriller, 118-115 on a Damian Lillard 37-footer at the buzzer. He finished with a playoff career-high 50 points. Frankly, the only series with any drama in the entire first round, then, has been the second-seeded Denver Nuggets against the No. 7 San Antonio Spurs.
Denver can advance to face No. 3 Portland in the Western Conference semifinals with a win in Game 6 on Thursday, but the Spurs opened as 2.5-point home favorites to force a Game 7 on Saturday back in the Mile High City. San Antonio had one of the best home records in the NBA during the regular season at 32-9, while Denver was just 20-21 on the road. The teams have split two games in San Antonio this series, each winning by double digits.
Other than Game 1 of this series, every one has been decided by at least nine points. In Game 5, the Nuggets were 5.5-point favorites and easily covered in a 108-90 victory. It was over after the Nuggets outscored the Spurs by 12 in the third quarter to bring a 22-point lead into the fourth.
Denver shot 50 percent on the nose from the field overall and 14-for-33 from deep. Seven players scored in double figures, led by Jamal Murray’s 23 points. Nikola Jokic nearly had another triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. San Antonio simply has had no answer for him as Jokic is averaging 19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the series.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 17 points each in Tuesday’s loss, but their team was outscored by a combined 47 points with them on the court. The 90 points were a series low for Coach Gregg Popovich’s team. San Antonio shot just 20-for-46 in the paint, with the 26 missed shots inside tied for the team’s second-most in a game this season, including playoffs.
Including playoffs, the Spurs have won nine of their past 10 at home against Denver, covering six times in that span.