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NBA Snapshot Series: February 28, 2020

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The West playoff picture with a Nuggets focus

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-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 Los Angeles Lakers refuse to lose. The Nuggets are 7-3 in their last 10 games, but they’ve lost ground to the Lakers who are 9-1 in their last 10 and have won seven straight. It’s quickly becoming a race for second unless the Lakers go 13-12 the rest of the way, at which point the Nuggets would have to go at least 18-6 to catch them. Not impossible, but exceedingly unlikely.
  • I don’t expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to maintain their current pace, but they will probably exceed 50 wins when it’s all said and done. That leaves the Nuggets competing with the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets for the second seed. The Nuggets probably don’t care whether they finish second or third, though they would prefer home court through two playoff rounds. What they don’t want is the fourth seed, which would automatically place them on the Lakers’ side of the bracket. Tonight’s game is extremely important.
  • Lo and behold, the Utah Jazz fall to sixth. I hinted at it last week but didn’t write it outright. I think the Jazz are done this year. Too much pressure is on Donovan Mitchell, and he hasn’t handled that well every night. The Nuggets should feel good about a series with Utah, and they may fall all the way to the seventh seed.
  • The race for the eighth seed turned into a serious brawl when the Memphis Grizzlies had Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke go down in back to back games. They have lost four in a row, opening the door to a slew of teams who could conceivably get hot. Notice I included more teams in the playoff picture this time around? Any team within five games of the eighth seed will be included, though I expect the Pelicans to run away with it by the end of the year.

Projected Playoff Order, via FiveThirtyEight

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: 62-20
  2. Los Angeles Clippers: 56-26
  3. Denver Nuggets - 55-27
  4. Houston Rockets: 55-27
  5. Utah Jazz: 50-32
  6. Dallas Mavericks: 50-32
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder: 49-33
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: 41-41

*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 during the week:

(all times are designated mountain timezone)

Friday

Oklahoma City Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks: Friday, February 28th @ 6:00pm

Finally, a game that the Thunder should lose. If Oklahoma City wins this one, then many will be forced to look at them differently. Rather than a cute story, they could be a serious threat to go deep in the playoffs under the right circumstance.

Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers: Friday, February 28th @ 8:30pm

The game of the night. Make sure you’re at Stoney’s for the Watch Party! Nikola Jokic and co. have traveled to Los Angeles to see what playing the Clippers at full strength is like. Denver beat Los Angeles in Denver with Paul George sitting out, but if George plays, the Nuggets will have a dilemma on their hands defensively. Who guards Kawhi Leonard in the starting unit? Who guards George? I expect Paul Millsap to start with the Kawhi assignment, but you never know.

Saturday

Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics: Saturday, February 29th @ 6:30pm

Saturday night basketball on ABC. This should be another excellent matchup between two teams that will go microscopic very quickly. The Rockets have Robert Covington and PJ Tucker at the big man positions, but I’m looking forward to seeing if they can match up with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. It may get annoying, but Tatum looks like a superstar in the making. Maybe he hands the Rockets a rare loss.

Sunday

Toronto Raptors at Denver Nuggets: Sunday, March 1st @ 4:00pm

This will be a tough contest, but one that the Nuggets should be ready for matchup wise. Pascal Siakam is awesome, but Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant are the right kinds of defenders to throw at him for 48 minutes. Nikola Jokic does great things against Serge Ibaka. Gary Harris will probably get the Kyle Lowry assignment, and Jamal Murray has a size advantage on the perimeter. The Raptors are great, but I like Denver here.

Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans: Sunday, March 1st @ 6:00pm

Another return to New Orleans for Anthony Davis. This time, Zion Williamson is in the picture. Expect a hostile environment for the Lakers here, and it’s one of the few games I could see them losing to a below .500 team for the rest of the year. The Nuggets need the Lakers to drop these games if they want a prayer for the one seed.