We’re all thinking it: should Denver lose Friday’s rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder to better their chances of facing the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs? Or should the Nuggets try to take care of business against the Thunder and let things play out how they will? Perhaps recent history should be our judge …


The particulars …

Game: 79
48-30 (17-22 on the road)
Streak: Won 1 and 7-3 in last 10 games.
Oklahoma City: 52-26 (29-10 at home)
Streak: Won 2 and 7-3 in last 10.
: Arron Afflalo (left hamstring) and Timofey Mozgov (sprained left ankle/knee) are both out. Chris Andersen (right ankle sprain) is questionable.
Oklahoma City: None.

Season Series: Thunder lead 2-1. This is the final regular season match-up.

Opposition’s Take: Welcome to Loud City

I believe my colleague, Andrew Feinstein, brought up the 2005-06 Los Angeles Clippers as the most recent example of a team that more-or-less chose their first round playoff opponent – our Denver Nuggets. That season, as I remember quite well, the Clippers finished 3-1 against the Nuggets in the regular season. Two of those games were blowouts (105-87 and 112-79) and the Clipps just had Denver’s number that season.

The Clippers finished the ’05-06 season with an impressive 47-35 record, but that wasn’t good enough for a top four seed out west as the three division winners: Spurs (63-19), Suns (54-28) and Nuggets (44-38) were guaranteed top four status and the fourth best team, the Mavericks (60-22), were 13 games better than the Clippers.

But as you can see from the above, the Clippers (47-35) were three games better than the Nuggets (44-38) and according to NBA rules would be eligible for home-court in round one even though they were technically the lower seed. So down the stretch, the Clippers curiously dropped 5 of their last 8 games – including a 16-point loss at home to the Seattle Supersonics on April 16th, just two days after beating the Sonics by 4-points in Seattle! You’re telling me that your squad goes on the road and handles business and then gets beat-down just two days later on your home floor against the same team? Seattle finished 35-47 that season by the way.

The Clippers got what they appeared to want by facing the Nuggets in the 2006 playoffs, with home-court, and defeated the Nuggets in just five games (4-1). It would be the first time since the 1975-76 season that the Clipps would advance out of the first round – just Denver’s luck.

Fast forward to Friday night and coincidentally we have the Nuggets currently holding a 3-1 record against the Mavs this season and just a 1-2 record against the Thunder. This is important because the Thunder currently sit in the No. 4 seed, just one game behind the No. 3 Mavs. The Nuggets appear to be locked into the No. 5 seed and while they can’t pick their opponent, the game Friday night weighs heavy for the Thunder’s chances at getting the No. 3 seed.

Tuesday (April 5th) the Nuggets small lineup of Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington were on the floor for the start of OKC’s 16-0 run. Just two night’s later in Dallas, that same lineup was on the floor at the 9:52 mark with the score 76-75 in Denver’s favor. That small ball lineup propelled the Nuggets to a 83-79 lead and helped change the whole dynamic of the game back to Denver’s style.

There is a lot to fear with both the Thunder and the Mavericks, but there is no denying that the Nuggets play well against Dallas. The Nuggets have not dominated the Mavs this season as their first match-up was a 1-point Dallas win and Denver won the Arron Afflalo thriller with a mad dash at the end of the game much to Jason Terry’s dismay.

At the Pepsi Center Tuesday night the Nuggets saw an effort from the Thunder that wasn’t the best from the young kids from OK City, yet Kevin Durant was able to steer his club to an important victory anyway. Durant and Russell Westbrook went to the free throw line early and often and they actually made their shots once they got there (19-22).

I don’t expect the Nuggets to lay down Friday night in an attempt to be farsighted to help their chances to play Dallas, but it sure is an interesting question as the nearsighted game against the Thunder looms large.

What do you think?

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