The series between these two teams has been one-sided to say the least, as Denver has not won against the Spurs in 10 straight games. The last time the Nuggets managed to take a win against the Spurs was back in April 10, 2013... yet another game where they decided to rest their key players.
To win, or not to win.... that is the question
Being mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the question has now risen in how to strike the ideal balance between winning now and better lottery odds come May 17th at the NBA Draft Lottery. The win now camp points to the innate benefits that winning possess: the confidence, the pride, and the momentum of going into next season with their heads held high. The tanking camp is a little more "logical" with their approach, pointing at the futility of winning now and the temptation of the all-powerful ping pong balls.
This writer is of the opinion that you always play to win and that you view the increased odds as a silver lining only. This is certainly the worse decision on paper, but the funny thing about basketball is that despite the growing movement towards science, it is very much an art. There are countless variables that go into how a team performs and as evident during the dreaded Brian Shaw era, just a few bad things can nosedive a team real quick.
The deciding factor in my opinion is simple: certainty. With winning, teams are certain to get the perks of the energetic, high-morale locker room filled with young players who have had their work validated as they see how far they've come. With losing, teams may get some extra lottery balls, but at the end of the day nothing is for sure. Ending the season on a losing streak could be all for naught.
It's simply better to perform to the best of their capabilities, and then play with the hand they're dealt. That being said... the lottery certainly does make losses more palatable.
In what looks to be a phenomenal center match-up, Nikola Jokic will go against fellow countryman Boban Marjanovic as Tim Duncan will almost certainly be taking a day off.
Boban actually came from the very club that Jokic played for in the Adriatic league, KK Mega Vizura (or simply Mega Leks). This club is unusual because it was actually taken over in 2004 by a basketball agency (BeoBasket) as a means to cultivate young talent.
Despite the youth of not only their players but also the organization itself, the club was launched into the highest talent level in the country behind the sheer ability of their young players, paying dividends in both phenoms as they become near NBA folk-tales with Boban's jaw-dropping size and Nikola's unforeseen success. Add draft lottery talent Timothe Luwawu into that equation and you can see that this is not your typical basketball club; they're legit.
In a classic battle of brains versus brawn, Jokic will look to take on his (much) bigger contemporary as he looks to prove to the folks back home that he is the face of Serbian basketball, the Dirk Nowitzki of his country if you will, not Marjanovic.
Updates for tonight's game:
#Nuggets will start Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic tonight vs. Spurs. The goal is to see more of that combo & rest Kenneth Faried.