A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come.
- Lester, The Wire
Is the Denver Nuggets moment about to come? Or are we on the outside looking in for a fourth season running? Denver’s playoff hopes took a major hit this past week, with narrow and tough losses in a home-and-away set to Houston before a big win against Cleveland over their last three games. While Denver is still (narrowly) sitting in the eighth seed, hard-charging Portland has made a race of the final dozen games with a great road trip last week before stumbling to the Bucks on Tuesday night. After last night’s win, Denver sits a game and half ahead of the Trail Blazers with 11 to play. As a Nuggets fan, what’s the best possible outcome for this young squad? Here’s a few ways it could all shake out.
Nowhere near the wire
Scenario: While there are a few (theoretically) easy wins left on the board for Denver, eight of the final 11 are played on the road, with only the Pelicans (twice) and Thunder as home games for the Nuggets over the next three weeks. It is conceivable that a squad that has seen a lot of injuries and trials could run out of gas before season’s end. Should the Nuggets finish these last 11 well below a .500 clip, they could easily see themselves three to five games behind the team that captures the last spot.
Outcome: Probably the most demoralizing of the options, and no wonder. After a season that saw the emergence of Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris, some inspired play by rookies Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangomez, and some early- and late-season heroics by vets Wilson Chandler (early season) and Danilo Gallinari (wabbit season, er, late season), the Nugs could see a hell of a lot of feel-good fall by the wayside in a promising year.
Right at the wire
Scenario: The Nuggets play their last 11 tough, and wrap up with six or so wins on the slate. Sadly, that still leaves them on the outside looking in as Portland tosses down the plate of cupcakes that makes up their end-of-year slate.
Outcome: Though every Nuggets fan wants to see Denver make it in this year, this is still not the worst outcome for the young team. The fight to the finish gave them their first taste of "playoff style" basketball, with their last 18 games fought tooth-and-nail. Or is that settling for platitudes when the goal is always to roll those postseason dice? This team has made progress, finishing in 10th place last season (8 games out of eighth), 12th the season prior (10 games out), and 11 the year before that (10 games out). Though 9th would not be the leap you’d like to see, the progress IS forward…
Under the wire
Scenario: These Denver Nuggets have consistently surprised this season when things seemed bleak, and their win streak pre-Houston (and close-fought games to the Rockets) showed that this team can play with anybody in the league when they are concentrating on both ends of the court and playing at their best. Even with a hell of a mountain to climb over the last three weeks, this close-knit squad could find it within themselves to knock out seven or eight wins, and vault themselves into that eighth seed battle-tested and hungry for more games to play.
Outcome: The feel-good story that has been the Denver Nuggets in the 2016-2017 season is probably best capped by a playoff appearance, even if it likely ends in a first-round exit. The teams the Nuggets could play, the Spurs or Golden State, will be amongst the favorites to win it all this season, and yet Denver has given both of those squads all that they could handle in the last two regular seasons, and could use the seasoning of the playoffs next gear. Whether that exit was four games, seven, or even a pass to the second round, you’d have to think Nuggets Nation would call this year a success if Denver played past April 12th.
But these are the mutterings and musings of one dipshit who has never actually seen a single episode of The Wire… but has managed to catch all 71 games of this Denver Nuggets season. Where do YOU see this team wrapping it all up, Nuggets Nation? And how do you feel about that outcome?