The 2013 NBA Playoffs, Nuggets begin Saturday, April 20th

Doug Pensinger

It's over. The Nuggets are locked in to playing the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, and will face them in Game 1 Saturday ... time to be determined. After the best regular season in franchise history, now begins season two. The Nuggets must prepare themselves for Stephen Curry's deadly three-point shooting and David Lee's interior game.

In clinching the No. 3 seed with their win against the pitiful Phoenix Suns last night (April 17th), the Nuggets set a regular season franchise record with a 57-25 campaign. It's hard for me to believe, at times, that this team is three wins better than the 2009 Western Conference Finals squad. You know, the team with the "superstar" that the sports media pundits say is so "obviously" needed.

This team has defied the expectations of nearly every prognosticator in their success through the regular season. They reeled off 15 straight wins, and lost just three games all year at home - one to the Heat (understandable), one to the Wizards (yuck) and one to the Timberwolves (blargh). The 2012-13 Nuggets were, legitimately, a few more "effort" games in the Pepsi Center from tying the 1985-86 Boston Celtics for the all time home win record at 40-1 (the Celtics sole loss that season was to a 40-42 Portland Trailblazers squad). That Celtics team which racked up 40 home wins featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton, five future Hall of Famers, and went on to win the NBA Finals over Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.

A Nuggets squad that doesn't look to feature any future Hall of Fame players nearly equaled that Celtics squad's home dominance. That, Stiffs, is incredible - especially when you factor in that the Nuggets have a very decent shot at home court advantage up to the semifinals (if the Lakers can upset the Spurs in Round 1), if not the Western Conference Finals.

So while the Nuggets relish in a superb regular season that featured mostly incredible highs - and some sad lows - they must get busy preparing for an opponent with an excellent home court advantage of their own. Despite the middling 28-13 home record sported by the Warriors, Oracle Arena is one of the loudest venues in the NBA when the Northern California crowd gets whipped into a frenzy, like we saw during the 2006-07 campaign when the lowly No. 8 seeded "We Believe" Warriors ended up knocking off a top seeded Mavericks team in just 6 games. The Nuggets sub-par road record is concerning, but the Nuggets have played the Warriors extremely well in Oracle in their regular season match-ups.

Ultimately, this is the great advantage in securing home court. The Nuggets will get two games to lead things off in the Pepsi Center, which absolutely will be jam packed full of insane Nuggets fans, forcing the Warriors into a road match-up against the team with the best home record during the regular season - and the Warriors have the same road record as the Nuggets. When the Nuggets travel to Oracle, they'll have been able to shake off most of the playoff jitters in front of a friendly home crowd and gird for an unfriendly one. Should things crater disastrously, the Nuggets would still have two more games in their home thin air.

I like those odds.


Playoff Match-ups:


Western Conference:

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets


No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors


Eastern Conference:

No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics

No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls



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