The NBA Snapshot series was created as a daily check-in for Denver Nuggets fans. Every game matters as the season comes to a close, and the playoff bracket is altered constantly. These posts will help inform Nuggets fans of the day’s games, providing an update on the standings and which teams to root for from game to game.
- The big news in the NBA last night was the Jusuf Nurkic leg injury. A fractured left fibula and tibia have put Nurkic out of commission, and it was way worse than it sounds, drawing comparisons to the Paul George and Gordon Hayward injuries. Nuggets fans may “sports hate” Nurkic, but he has turned himself into a great player and member of the Portland community. This is an awful way for the season to end for him.
- Because of this, I think it’s likely that Portland will stay at the 4 seed or maybe drop below that level. The Blazers are three games ahead of Utah and Los Angeles in the loss column, and they don’t have the tiebreaker over the Jazz (they do have it over the Clippers). This injury has turned to seeding more fluid than ever before, and the Nuggets have no idea who the first round opponent will be.
- The Nuggets have the most games in the NBA remaining, but eight of those games are against current playoff teams. Assuming they win the two against the non-playoff teams, splitting the remaining eight is a reasonable standard to maintain, 4-4 against playoff teams. That would put Denver at 55 wins, the maximum allotment for the Rockets, and a reasonable benchmark for the Nuggets based on the standard they have set for themselves.
FiveThirtyEight projects the playoff order as follows:
- Golden State: 58-24
- Denver: 55-27
- Houston: 53-29
- Portland: 51-31
- Utah: 50-32
- San Antonio: 48-34 (will likely own tiebreaker over LAC and OKC due to head-to-head record)
- Los Angeles: 48-34
- Oklahoma City: 48-34
Updated magic number scenarios for the Nuggets are as follows:
- Home court advantage in the first round = 4 combined Nuggets wins and Jazz losses
- Home court in the first and second rounds = 7 combined Nuggets wins and Rockets losses
- Top seed in the Western Conference = 11 combined Nuggets wins and Warriors losses
Games to watch Monday night
Who to root for: San Antonio. Breaking the tie between the Spurs and Clippers is important, and the more wins the Spurs grab now, then they are more likely to drop the final game against the Nuggets on a road SEGABABA. If San Antonio were penciled in for a game against the Rockets or Blazers, then they may be willing to rest starters late in the year.
Houston Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks — 6:00 pm MST
Who to root for: Milwaukee. This is an important game from a Nuggets standings perspective. The toughest remaining game for Houston is either this one or the final matchup versus Denver. Houston dropping this one means some wiggle room for Denver.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Minnesota Timberwolves — 6:00 pm MST
Who to root for: Minnesota. Los Angeles has an easy schedule to end the year, but not quite as easy as Utah or San Antonio. I’d imagine Minnesota won’t put up a ton of fight in this one, but Karl-Anthony Towns has been special. If he puts up a 30-point, 20-rebound performance, the T’Wolves have a chance.
Detroit Pistons vs Denver Nuggets — 7:00 pm MST
Who to root for: The good guys. This is (sadly) one of the easier games on the schedule remaining for Denver, and they have to face Blake Griffin, who I believe to be an All-NBA LOCK. Denver has to win this one, and while I expect them to play well with Millsap checking Griffin, it would be a tough look if they didn’t.