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NBA Snapshot — Sunday March 31

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Can the Nuggets take care of business?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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.


Standings Update

  • Well, the Rockets and Blazers certainly didn’t do the Nuggets any favors last night. The goal in all scenarios is to force the Rockets into the 4 seed so as to give the Nuggets an out in case they want to rest their players. That hasn’t changed. If the Nuggets take care of their next four games, they clinch a top 2 seed regardless. However, that puts a lot of pressure on the Nuggets over the next week. Can they dig deep and win games they aren’t supposed to win? We will see, but it starts tonight in a matchup they should win.
  • Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City are all facing matchups today in which they should prevail. All three of the opponents are non-playoff teams, so don’t expect any major shift in the standings. Still, if one of those teams drops a game, it will have major ramifications going forward.
  • Utah playing in the 4-5 matchup seems like a formality at this point. Post All-Star break, the Jazz are 14-5, with three of those losses coming from non-playoff teams and the other two coming from Oklahoma City. Don’t expect the Jazz to drop too many more. The only possibilities are against the Nuggets late in the year (hopefully Denver is resting players at that point) and the Clippers in the last game on Utah’s schedule.

FiveThirtyEight projects the playoff order as follows:

  1. Golden State: 57-25
  2. Denver: 55-27
  3. Houston: 53-29
  4. Utah: 51-31 (will likely own tiebreaker over Portland due to division record)
  5. Portland: 51-31
  6. Los Angeles: 49-33
  7. San Antonio: 48-34 (will likely own tiebreaker over OKC due to head-to-head record)
  8. Oklahoma City: 48-34

Updated magic number scenarios for the Nuggets are as follows:

  • Home court advantage in the first round = 2 combined Nuggets wins and Jazz losses
  • Home court in the first and second rounds = 4 combined Nuggets wins and Rockets losses
  • Top seed in the Western Conference = 7 combined Nuggets wins and Warriors losses with tiebreaker, 8 without out tiebreaker

Games to watch tonight

Dallas Mavericks vs Oklahoma City Thunder — 1:30 pm MST

Who to root for: Dallas. The Thunder are still reeling. They have lost 12 of their 19 games since the break, and the more chaos to cause in a potential first round opponent, the better.

Sacramento Kings vs San Antonio Spurs — 5:00 pm MST

Who to root for: San Antonio. The Spurs have an easy schedule left, and if they so choose, they can go for the 6 seed over the Clippers, who have a slightly tougher road ahead. If the Spurs win games they are favored in going forward, they will go 4-2, but those losses factor in a road game against the Wizards. If the Spurs steal that one, the Clippers have to go 4-2 the rest of the way to stay ahead of them, since the Spurs will own the conference record tiebreaker over the Clippers..

Washington Wizards vs Denver Nuggets — 6:00 pm MST

Who to root for: The good guys. Duh. If Denver wins this one, they will have almost assured home court advantage in the first round and will have taken the next step to clinching a top 2 seed.

Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors — 6:30 pm MST

Who to root for: Charlotte. If there was ever a game for a team to steal, this would be a great opportunity. Hypothetically, if the Hornets won this game and the Nuggets won theirs, the gap between the Warriors and Nuggets would widen. Add a Nuggets win, and it widens even further. At that point, does Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decide to shut down his stars and simply play for the 2 seed or expend energy trying to keep pace for the 1 seed? Either way, it all starts with Charlotte.

Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers — 8:30 pm MST

Who to root for: Memphis. The Grizzlies have helped out the Nuggets a ton late in the year. Time for Denver to call in another favor.