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NBA Playoff standings update: Where the Nuggets stand in the West hierarchy

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Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Back in 2019, I started up a series on Denver Stiffs titled “NBA Snapshot” that was meant as a daily update to the Western Conference playoff picture. It was a good check-in for Nuggets fans that offered a detailed look at the standings, projected playoff matchups, and circled games for Nuggets fans to pay attention to toward the end of the regular season.

I recently floated the idea of starting up the series again on Twitter, and the response to continue it was overwhelming. Things have changed for me personally, and I won’t have consistent time to do a daily post, but I do have enough time to do a post every Monday and Friday, once for the weekdays and another for the weekends. That way, Nuggets fans will be covered for the final month of the regular season on important games to circle on the calendar.

Without further ado, let’s get into it:

Notes

  • The NBA playoffs are drawing ever closer, and the Denver Nuggets are in good position to secure home court advantage. After the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, they dropped to 24 losses on the season, four more than Denver’s current total of 20. Keep in mind that the Nuggets and Lakers are tied 1-1 in their season series with the deciding game happening on May 3rd. That game will in essence count for two games in the standings for whoever wins it: one for the game itself and the other for the head-to-head tiebreaker ensured by the victory.
  • The Los Angeles Clippers are only one ahead of the Nuggets in the loss column, but they’ve already banked four extra wins on the backs of a compact first half schedule. It will be difficult for the Nuggets to catch the Clippers in the standings though not impossible given their propensity to rest Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If the Clippers want to catch the teams ahead of them though and ensure home court advantage through two playoff rounds, they will have to fight for it.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks possess equal records at 32-26, but the Blazers are ahead of the Mavericks in the standings because they earned a head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series 2-1 last month. The Blazers have a harder schedule than the Mavericks down the stretch, but the Blazers control their own destiny for the time being if they want to avoid that dividing line of the play-in tournament.

Projected Records, courtesy of FiveThirtyEight season predictions:

  1. Utah, 54-18
  2. LA Clippers, 50-22
  3. Phoenix, 50-22
  4. Denver, 47-25
  5. LA Lakers, 43-29
  6. Dallas, 41-31
  7. Portland, 40-32
  8. Memphis, 37-35
  9. Golden State, 36-36
  10. San Antonio, 34-38

Updated Magic Number Scenarios for Denver:

  • Clinch Spot in Play-In Tournament = 2 combined Nuggets wins or Pelicans losses
  • Clinch Top-6 Playoff Spot = 9 combined Nuggets wins or Mavericks losses
  • Clinch Home Court Advantage = 11* combined Nuggets wins or Lakers losses

*Magic Number for HCA drops from 11 to 10 if Nuggets win vs Lakers on May 3rd to clinch H2H tiebreaker

Games to Watch this weekend (all times MDT):

DEN @ GSW, Friday @ 8:00pm — Obvious implications for the Nuggets, and especially for the MVP race. If Denver wins this one, it will mean a lot for keeping pace with the top three teams in the West as well.

MEM @ POR, Friday @ 8:00pm — The Blazers are reeling at 3-8 in their last 11 games. If the Grizzlies win, they’d move one game back in the loss column of the Blazers for the 7th seed and closer to the top six.

LAL @ DAL, Saturday @ 6:30pm — The most important non-Nuggets game of the weekend. The Lakers and Mavericks played on Thursday night with the Mavericks winning. If the Mavs win again, they’d clinch a H2H tiebreaker over the Lakers and move toward overtaking them in the standings too. That would break up the current 4-5 matchup between Nuggets and Lakers, replacing it with Nuggets and Mavericks.

HOU @ DEN, Saturday @ 8:00pm — Denver needs to take care of business here. It’s the easiest game left on their schedule.

PHX @ BKN, Sunday @ 1:30pm — The Suns losing would give Denver a small chance to move up in the standings, and the Brooklyn Nets, despite being shorthanded, remain one of their toughest opponents.

MEM @ POR, Sunday @ 2:00pm — A repeat of Friday night’s contest. The two teams will most likely split 1-1 on this two-game series, but if one team or the other wins both games, it could mean a lot for the playoff picture.