J.R. Smith and the Denver Nuggets have made it through the confusion and chaos that surrounded the team. Where will they go from here?
The Nuggets have 21 regular games left to right their topsy-turvy season. Now that the team is intact and starting to gel, it's time to look at some expectations for the 13-games in the month of March.
I love the month of March for many reasons. My sister celebrates her birthday this month, I celebrate my birthday this month, St. Patrick's Day is this month, the NCAA tournament begins this month and NBA teams begin to separate into two groups - the playoff teams and the non-playoff teams.
Talking to my friend Rich last night after a nice win against the Atlanta Hawks ... we began to discuss what lies ahead for these Nuggets. We started talking about the upcoming free agents, the landscape of the East and West in the coming years and finally we re-focused on what actually matters ... the upcoming schedule.
Let's do a quick bullet point of the Nuggets March schedule:
- 13 games in March.
- 6 home games.
- 7 road games.
- 2 back-to-back sets.
- 4 game road trip in about the middle of the month.
- 4 game home stand to close the month.
- 4 nationally televised games.
- 5 games against teams currently slated to make the playoffs.
- 3 games against teams just outside a playoff seeding (in the hunt for a spot).
Now let's take a look at the actual schedule:
March 2: vs Charlotte - the Bobcats, despite trading Gerald Wallace, remain in the playoff hunt.
March 3: at Utah - the Jazz lost their coach and point guard, but remain dangerous at home.
March 5: at Los Angeles Clippers - an up-and-coming team that gives Denver fits in L.A.
March 10: at Phoenix - a tough place to play, but Denver will have four full days of rest.
March 12: vs Detroit - a team in turmoil should not be taken lightly.
March 14: at New Orleans - the start to a brutal four-game road trip.
March 16: at Atlanta - tough at home and will want revenge.
March 18: at Orlando - Denver never has much success in Orlando.
March 19: at Miami - thanks schedule makers. Maybe a birthday win for me?!?
March 21: vs Toronto - finally home against a team that loves a good shootout. Watch out!
March 23: vs San Antonio - the hated Spurs come to town for a big game on ESPN. Playoff atmosphere!
March 25: vs Washington - a horrid road team needs their throat stepped on early.
March 30: vs Sacramento - four full days of rest for Denver, hopefully the Kings will be in full tank mode.
So, the question ... how many wins would you be happy with?
The "I think I sh*t my pants I'm so happy!" scenario: If Denver can get double-digit wins this month, then they would surely be the most talked about team in the NBA. On paper, and if I super-glue my Powder Blue colored glasses to my dome, I could see the Nuggets grabbing 10 wins. Here is how: take care of the Bobcats on Wednesday (1), steal one against the demoralized Jazz in a tough back-to-back (2), dig deep and out-energize the young Clippers in L.A. (3), stun the surging Suns in their building (4), pound the Pistons at home (5), grab a big win in Atlanta (6), return home and use defense to beat the Raptors (7), out Spur the Spurs on ESPN (8), don't give the Wizards hope (9) and take care of the ball hoggin' Kings (10). You hopefully can see how this would be a tough task.
This is what we're aiming for: If the Nuggets can come up with seven or eight wins in March, I would consider it to be a very successful month. This would give Denver 42 or 43 wins on the season with eight games left to play in April. Let's see how Denver can get to 7-wins: blow by the Bobcats (1), win one in Utah since Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan are gone (2), jam up the Pistons (3), show Chris Paul who is boss (4), beat the Linas Kleiza-less Raptors (5), crush the Wizards (6) and get crazier than DeMarcus Cousins (7). Doesn't seem so tough to get seven wins does it?
Find doomsday button and smash down with face: If the Nuggets have an awful month, they should still be able to squeek out five wins. With just 40 wins total, the Nuggets would likely have to have a super April (7-1 or 8-0) and get to 47 or 48 wins to make the playoffs. Let's say the Nuggets win just five games in March: show Michael Jordan his Bobcats stink (1), rough up Chauncey Billups' old Detroit squad (2), stun the slumping Magic (3), laugh at John Wall's Wizards (4) and let J.R. Smith loose from downtown against the Kings (5). After watching the Nuggets these past three games wouldn't just five wins seem unlikely for this team? I think so too.
To quickly recap: double-digit wins would mean something big, a 7-6 month is good news and a 5-8 month means something went wrong.
Again, how many wins would you be happy with?
On to some links:
Nuggs vs Hawks Postgame - Altitude
Go listen to the postgame radio interviews. K-Mart brushes off critics. J.R. talks brifly how he and Felton should have played at North Carolina together. And George Karl talks about the offense taking care of the ball.
Nuggets beat Hawks, improve to 3-1 post-Melo - Chris Dempsey, Denver Post
Dempsey gives some postgame notes and talks briefly about Danilo Gallinari and his injured left toe.
Chris Dempsey - Twitter
After the game Dempsey let us know more about Gallo's toe with this Tweet:
Nuggets: Further x-rays on Gallinari's foot revealed a non-displaced fracture in his left big toe. He's now out 7-10 days.
Nuggets try to find playing time for Mozgov - Chris Dempsey, Denver Post
Dempsey is all over today's GN! Some quotes from Karl about finding Timofey Mozgov some playing time this week. When the big Russian gets into a game I hope it's at Pepsi Center and I hope there is a great ovation for him ... a Mozgov Cocktail-esque explosion?
Why A Franchise Tag Wouldn't Work In The NBA - Cork Gaines, Business Insider
Don't show this link to Andrew Feinstein and the like! Some interesting points and something that will be discussed after the season during the ... lockout. Boo!
Calf to shelve Tony Parker 2-4 weeks - Associated Press, ESPN
I'll take a wild shot in the dark ... Parker returns to the Spurs lineup on March 23rd and looks better than ever! Somebody push me down some stairs!
Source: Mike Bibby headed to Heat - Chris Broussard, ESPN
Do you think the Atlanta Hawks are happy that Bibby is heading to Miami? The Hawks helped the Heat, their division rival, shore up their weakest position (let's not forget that Bibby is used to playing off the ball as Joe Johnson ran things a bit for Atlanta). Bibby may have given up a lot of money to get his buyout from the Wizards (perhaps more than $6.2 million) and may get a crack at his former team in the second round of the playoffs.
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