Nuggets at Bucks preview: Nuggets play last road game of season sans Kenneth Faried

USA TODAY Sports

Another game, another injury. Kenneth Faried's severely sprained ankle couldn't have happened at a worse time as the Nuggets scrap and claw to maintain their position as the third seed in the West. Tonight, the Nuggets take on the Milwaukee Bucks in their last road game of the season.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 81

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55-24 (18-22 on the road)
1-0 DEN
37-43 (21-19 at home)
April 12th, 2013 - 6:00 PM (MT)
BMO Harris Bradley Center - Milwaukee, WI
Altitude / ESPN / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Monta Ellis
Andre Iguodala SG Brandon Jennings (?)
Wilson Chandler SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Anthony Randolph
PF Ersan Ilyasova
Kosta Koufos C John Henson
Notes
You're here! Blogs Brew Hoop
Kenneth Faried (ankle) :( Injuries Marquis Daniels (leg) questionable, Larry Sanders (back) "very questionable"
Nuggets have won franchise-best 55 games Stat Monta Ellis had a career high 17 assists vs. Atlanta on Friday

Why is it now that the Nuggets are given the Coca-Cola bottle of injuries? Couldn't the trip to the end of the earth to dispense with the cursed object have ended at home versus the Mavericks? Not yet, it seems... but tonight's trip to Milwaukee marks the endpoint of a 41-game journey for this hearty, young, tough, and gritty Nuggets squad.

It's been a long road, folks. Despite one of the hardest, road-heavy opening schedules the NBA has seen since the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, the Denver Nuggets set a franchise record in the NBA with 55 wins against the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday afternoon.

Yet as the Nuggets prepare themselves for the postseason and a likely date with the Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors(/Memphis Grizzlies/Los Angeles Clippers), they've been bitten by the injury bug at the worst possible time. Just three minutes into the game on Sunday, Kenneth Faried sprained his left ankle on a drive into the paint. In a moment that was disturbingly reminiscent of the recent ACL injury to Danilo Gallinari, Faried lay on the floor writhing in pain until he was helped off the floor by his teammates and eventually wheeled into the locker room by head trainer Jim Gillen.

The Nuggets have now weathered significant time missed by Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, and will now be without the services of Faried until at least the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, the Nuggets have sustained the injuries to Lawson, Gallinari and Faried at the worst possible time - right as they prepare for the first round of the playoffs. While we rend our clothes and gnash our teeth at the unfortunate timing of these injuries, to me, it just serves to underscore how important those regular season wins actually are at the end of the day.

If the Nuggets had taken care of business against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards at home, they might have given extended minutes these last few games to a flourishing Evan Fournier (which is truly becoming a great bright spot for this team) and instead sat Faried and Gallinari, comfortably ensconced in either the second or third seeds. Yet the Nuggets were forced to play them in their hunt for home court advantage in the first round, and each has gone down with injuries in turn. What may have been and what may be are paths with no end, but it definitely makes one wonder how much better the Nuggets would perform in the postseason with a fully healthy Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried.

Tonight, the Nuggets will face a Milwaukee Bucks team that was hoping to capitalize on the mid-season acquisition of sharpshooter J.J. Redick. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Redick's shot has been flat since the trade (12ppg, 39.8% FG, 31.4% 3P in 26 games), continually bricking a number of open looks he'd normally net. As the Bucks are locked into the 8th seed in the East, they will likely rest their starters to prepare for the beatdown they'll receive at the hands of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference first round. I wouldn't expect too many minutes (if any) from the banged up Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders. Let's not forget, though, that back on February 5th the Nuggets let Samuel Dalembert drop 35 and 12 on them... yikes.

With the Nuggets just a game ahead of the Clippers and the Grizzlies, this game and Wednesday's against Phoenix carry significant weight. If the Nuggets can manage to win against the Bucks, they'll be virtually locked into the third seed, with just a little help from the Grizzlies and Clippers. If not, they could potentially see themselves falling from home court advantage as the third seed to being on the road as the fifth seed. It's been a tough balancing act for George Karl, trying to manage his team's play against the importance of home court with the (seemingly) increasing likelihood of injuries before the playoffs. Let's hope that tonight he's still able to secure another franchise record.

This is my last regular season recap of the season folks - thanks for reading through this 82-drop rollercoaster, and we'll see you in the first round (and beyond)!

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