DENVER — No stranger to the weight that accompanies Game 7s, DeMar DeRozan offered one overly basic reminder to his team.
- The Spurs face the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center
- Nuggets went a league-best 34-7 at home
- If they win, Spurs play Portland
"Us versus them," the San Antonio guard said.
The Spurs face the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center in the first-round series finale Saturday.
The second-seeded Nuggets went a league-best 34-7 at home in the regular season behind all that noise.
"Go out there and play free, play smart," DeRozan said, whose team forced a winner-moves-on scenario with a 120-103 victory Thursday in San Antonio. "We can't get caught up in the crowd."
The Spurs are packing enough outfits for a week's worth of travel, just in case. Should they win, it's off to Portland to start the Western Conference semifinals. Should they lose, the offseason begins.
"We're not going to pack for no reason," Spurs forward Rudy Gay said. "If I'm going to pack my clothes, I'm going to use them."
That's the sort of swagger the Spurs bring to the court. DeRozan believes that experience will play a role against a youthful Nuggets team that is in the postseason for the first time since 2013. With an average age of 24.9, the Nuggets have the youngest squad in the West bracket. The Spurs check in at 27.2.
While Denver has proven a difficult place to play, the Spurs won in the Mile High City during Game 1 and had a 19-point lead in Game 2 before Jamal Murray rescued the Nuggets.
"It's literally win or go home. Simple as that," DeRozan said, who played in two series that went to seven games in 2016 when he was with Toronto. "Once you understand the meaning of that going into the game, you understand that every single second on the court matters. The guys that have been in a Game 7 understand what it's like."
Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is coming off a monster game in which he had 43 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. He is averaging nearly a triple-double for the series.
As for what he expects Saturday, he is not really sure.
"It's my first Game 7," Jokic said. "It's probably going to be even tougher than this one."
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich facing Denver's Michael Malone is another intriguing element in this game. Malone referred to his coaching counterpart as Bobby Fischer — the late chess prodigy — as they tried to outmaneuver each other. This is Malone's first playoff series as a head coach. In contrast, Popovich has been to the postseason 22 straight seasons, with five titles.
For his part, Millsap will try to keep his young teammates from feeling too many nerves.
"All the pressure is on them," Millsap said. "This is why we fought so hard for home-court advantage. No pressure on us."