Los Angeles Lakers 120, Denver Nuggets 116
Memphis Grizzlies 119, Denver Nuggets 99
Denver Nuggets 121, Milwaukee Bucks 117
San Antonio Spurs 121, Denver Nuggets 97
ESPN (Marc Stein)
Last week: 14
The Nuggets have reached the 50-game threshold as the West's No. 8 seed but not as the favorite to finish there, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index. Our trusty BPI says that Denver, at present, only has a 30 percent shot to finish eighth in the conference, which represents better odds than Dallas (14 percent) or Sacramento (4 percent) but leaves the Nuggets well behind Portland (46 percent) despite the continued emergence of Nikola Jokic (who just uncorked his first career triple-double). The Blazers lead the season series 2-1 and can clinch the tiebreaker with a home win over the Nuggets on March 28. Denver also faces the ninth-toughest remaining schedule in the league, according to BPI, while Portland's rates as the sixth-easiest from here.
NBA (John Schuhmann)
Last week: 14
Nikola Jokic returned from a three-game absence to record his first career triple-double against Milwaukee on Friday. But Jokic had more turnovers (5) than rebounds (1) and assists (2) combined a night later and the Nuggets fell to 2-9 on the second night of a back-to-back when they got thumped by the Spurs. The remain the league's worst defensive team and have allowed almost 119 points per 100 possessions as they've lost three of their last four. They have another back-to-back (at New York and Cleveland) this week, and will first have to deal with the Yogi Ferrell Show on Monday.
Sport’s Illustrated (Jeremy Woo)
Last week: 14
I honestly really tried to get excited about the Nuggets a year ago. It didn’t go that great. But that optimistic stance has become much more palatable of late, as Denver rode a 7–3 stretch out to close January and take control of the eighth seed in the West. This is a franchise that hasn’t been to the postseason since George Karl left. Can you believe they won 57 games in 2012–13 (and Karl won Coach of the Year) despite the fact that everyone probably hated playing for him?
Three and a half seasons later, it finally feels like the Nuggets have a more obvious direction than just “these guys might be good” and “oh look, Danilo Gallinari.” It boggles my mind that Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler never got traded as Denver rebuilt (although we might actually be nearing that point). But with Nikola Jokic making an argument as the league’s savviest-passing big man at age 21, Jamal Murray having some nice moments, Emmanuel Mudiay cutting back on turnovers and Gary Harris providing a steadying presence, there’s a clear set of core pieces here that was harder to identify even three months ago. Jokic in particular will determine the arc of this team, it seems—he’s a bit of a liability on defense but a game-changing passer that should continue to evolve and make the parts around him better. The crazy part is he’s only averaging 26 minutes per game. If you extrapolate his numbers on a per-36 minute basis, 21.5 points, 11.7 boards and 5.6 assists sure do pop.
The Nuggets aren’t slaying giants yet, but they’re making strides that matter. The overall successes of their scouting department post-Karl should be lost on nobody. What they do with their chips at the deadline should be fascinating.
CBS Sports (Matt Moore)
Last week: 13
The Nuggets have the talent to pull it off from time to time, but they need so much to go right nightly for them to get a win because their defense is ground beef left in a hot car overnight. If they're going to make the playoffs they have to find a more sustainable formula through adjustments or trade.
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