If anyone on the Spurs could confidently address the intentions of Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, it’s DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan, who was traded to the Spurs along with Poeltl this past offseason in the blockbuster Kawhi Leonard deal, defended his teammate against questions of dirty play ahead of Saturday night’s Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets.
“Jakob is not a dirty player,” DeRozan said. “Anybody that thinks Jakob is a dirty player, they have a dirty mind.”
Poeltl caught Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray with a knee to the thigh early in the second half of Game 6. It was the third time this series a Poeltl screen has sent a Nuggets player reeling and the second time it’s happened to Murray.
“Jakob is not a dirty player at all,” DeRozan continued. “He goes out there, plays extremely hard. His intent is never to try to hurt anybody or to try and injure nobody. He goes out there and tries to do his job.”
The Nuggets have sent multiple plays to the NBA for review this series, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after Game 6 that the league agreed with their assessment. Malone wasn’t sure why those affirmations hadn’t translated to in-game fouls on Poeltl’s screens.
Whether that becomes another issue in Saturday’s Game 7 remains to be seen. The Nuggets, who returned to Denver Thursday night after their Game 6 loss, had an optional shootaround for players Saturday morning with plans for a walk-through later in the afternoon.
It’s possible the Nuggets wanted to insulate themselves ahead of what will be most of their first Game 7s.
DeRozan, who’s played in 57 playoff games in his career, said he offered this advice to his younger teammates.
“Go out there and play, don’t think too much like it’s a Game 7, but play like we played last game,” DeRozan said. “Play like we want to continue to keep this going. Don’t overthink it.”