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NBA Snapshot Series - February 21, 2020

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The West playoff picture with a Nuggets focus

NBA: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Snapshot series was created as a playoff check-in for Denver Nuggets fans. Every game matters as the regular season comes to a close and the playoff bracket constantly changes. These posts will help inform Nuggets fans of the week’s games, providing an update on the standings and which teams to root for from game to game.


Standings Update

  • The Nuggets currently sit one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and 1.5 games ahead of the Utah Jazz. There is a reasonable divide between the first seeded Los Angeles Lakers, the grouping from two to four, and the rest of the Western Conference playoff race.
  • The Lakers are five losses ahead of the Nuggets in the loss column with 29 games to go. While it is not impossible for the Nuggets to catch the Lakers in the standings, it isn’t likely. The Lakers possess the 10th easiest strength of schedule remaining based on opponent record. The Nuggets possess the 10th most difficult strength of schedule. There are opportunities for the Nuggets to make up ground, but any realistic shot at the top seed comes with a win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on March 15th. Circle your calendars.
  • The Houston Rockets won last night and inch closer to the Nuggets/Clippers/Jazz trio. They play the Jazz on Saturday in Utah.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies lost to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, drawing them closer to the teams coming after them in the race for the eight seed.

Projected Playoff Order, via FiveThirtyEight

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: 61-21
  2. Denver Nuggets: 56-26
  3. Los Angeles Clippers: 56-26
  4. Houston Rockets: 54-28
  5. Utah Jazz: 53-29
  6. Dallas Mavericks: 49-33
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder: 48-34
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: 40-42

*Updated playoff scenarios as related to Magic Numbers will be introduced on Monday, March 16th, roughly one month until the end of the 2019-20 regular season

Most important games to watch this weekend

(all times are designated mountain timezone)

Friday

Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder: Friday, February 21st @ 6:00pm

This is a potential first round playoff matchup for the Nuggets. Denver will face Oklahoma City three more times this season and will get an up close and personal look at the effect Chris Paul has had on the franchise. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a matchup nightmare, Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder remain dangerous, and Steven Adams remains huge.

Saturday

Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz: Saturday, February 22rd @ 7:00pm

This will be the first matchup between the Rockets and the Jazz with both rosters in their playoff construction. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and the Pocket Rockets go to Salt Lake City to switch everything against the pick and roll oriented Jazz around Rudy Gobert. The Rockets have dominated the Jazz by going small on several occasions. We will see if that holds true this time around.

Sunday

Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers: Sunday, February 23rd @ 1:30pm

This could be one of the rare instances where the Lakers are vulnerable to lose a home game. They don’t have the perimeter talent to combat a locked in Celtics team. The Celtics don’t have the big man talent to combat a locked in Lakers team. This should be a good game, and if the Nuggets still want the 1 seed, any Lakers loss is a good loss.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets: Sunday, February 23rd @ 4:00pm

The return of Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt should be an enjoyable one. The Wolves don’t have any playoff aspirations this year, but in acquiring the above three former Nuggets and point guard D’Angelo Russell, this will be a good time to see what the Wolves are building for the future.