After last night’s incredible overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Denver Nuggets headed home to get some much deserved rest. The past couple of weeks have been grueling, and filled with uncertainty as the Nuggets began to slide into the bad 3rd and 4th quarter habits that caused so much frustration for the team at this exact time last season. Denver could have taken care of business much better than they did in this latest, and most grueling road trip, but 3 wins and 4 losses keeps their hopes of a playoff appearance alive.
The Nuggets are currently tied with the Clippers for the 9th rank in the Western Conference Standings, and they’re just two games out of capturing the 7th or 8th seed with 6 games left in the season. Of the remaining 6 games, 3 are in-division so it’s possible for the Nuggets to capture full game gains if they take this final push seriously.
In a perfect world, the Nuggets would capture at least 4 out of the 6 upcoming games, and the Jazz, Pelicans, and Clippers would lose a few to put Denver in the position they need to achieve their long-time goal of making the playoffs once again. Unfortunately, the Nuggets are in a situation where there are some things that are outside of their control—meaning they’re relying upon teams losing in order for their plans to work out.
Nonetheless, the hometown guys still have a chance at the post-season, and until it’s over we get to speculate on all the possibilities.
One scenario has me thinking (credit to Gil Whiteley @Gilfest from Mile High Sports Radio for planting the seed) is the potential match-up between the Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors. The Houston Rockets have a very comfortable lead in the Western Conference standings, so in order for the Nuggets to meet the Warriors in round 1 they would need to capture the 7th seed. This is very doable for Denver, especially if Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap continue to play together like they played together last night against OKC.
If the Nuggets fail to make the 7th seed, getting stuck in 8th place instead, they have absolutely no chance of beating the Rockets in the playoffs. In fact, I don’t even think they would capture one game.
The Warriors, however, are a different story. The Nuggets and the Warriors have been an interesting match-up this season, and the Nuggets have demonstrated that they can beat any team in the league when they focus and compete for a full game (unfortunately we haven’t gotten to see that as much lately until last night).
Denver and Golden State have played one another a total of four times this season with Denver landing the win in 2 of those games.
Not only have the Nuggets beat the Warriors in 50% of their match-ups, they’ve secured the win when the Warriors were healthy and at full strength. Right now, Stephen Curry is officially out of the first round with a knee injury, and Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have also been struggling with injury and illness. Without any one of these players, the Warriors are in a position where they could be an easy target for a team like Denver.
A first round meeting between the Nuggets and the Warriors would be a great time for the Nuggets to show everyone what they’re made of. It may be a long-shot, but if they want to capitalize on this opportunity they need to strike while the iron is hot. The Nuggets team that beat the Thunder last night could quite possibly take out the injured Warriors in a 7 game series.
That is, if they can make it that far.
Coach Mike Malone made a comment after last night’s game that stood out to me. He took a stab at those who have “given up” on the team, saying “who cares” about what they think.
Well, Coach Malone, I believe you should care. Quite frankly, Nuggets fans have little to go on in terms of believing these upcoming games are going to produce a positive outcome for a playoff appearance. Denver has had a difficult time of stringing together more than a few wins in a row, so the evidence just isn’t there.
Have I given up on the Nuggets? Not completely. I believe their chances of making the playoffs have decreased drastically in recent weeks, but I’m still holding out hope that they’ll get it done. They absolutely CAN do it, but will they? If they don’t want us to give up, they will have to prove it.
If the Nuggets can make it across the finish line, my confidence will be restored. And if they’re able to creep up into that 7th slot to meet Golden State, it would be one incredible series to see!