Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Denver Nuggets Race for 8th Breakdown

Kenneth Faried missed the Denver Nuggets home win over the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 6th for "Personal Reasons;" since that time Faried has only appeared in three games for a grand total of 40 minutes. He has missed 14 of Denver's last 17 games, including nine straight with lower back spasms.

Faried's injury has been a tough one for team continuity as Wilson Chandler and Mason Plumlee have taken turns starting at the power forward spot for Denver. Faried did give an in-game interview to Lisa Leslie, during the team's blowout win over the tanking Lakers, in which he said he could be back soon, which poses an interesting dilemma for the Nuggets.

Denver has to win as many of their final 15 games as possible, but could blending Faried back in disrupt what the team has going? That's a question Michael Malone must answer. Faried has been excellent next to Nikola Jokic, but so has Chandler (and Plumlee is looking better next to Jokic). Again, timing will be key for the Nuggets.

While the Nuggets must figure out the in-game player combinations, let's take a look at the remaining 15 games and see where Denver stands and where their opponents stand entering each contest... And keep this in mind, the closer Denver can get to 40 wins -- the better for the race between them, the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Denver Nuggets current record: 32-35

Nuggets vs. Mavericks: 2-1 with one game remaining.
Nuggets vs. Blazers: 1-2 with one game remaining. Portland holds division record tiebreaker.
Nuggets vs. Wolves: 2-2 with zero games remaining. Division record tiebreaker up for grabs.

Game 1 vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday March 16:
The Clippers head to Denver on the second of a back-to-back from Los Angeles. They face the Milwaukee Bucks the night before and that should be a competitive game. It'll be the Clippers third game in four nights. This is a winnable game, despite records, that Denver will have a shot to win.

Schedule telling me: Denver favored
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 2 vs. Houston Rockets, Saturday March 18:
The Rockets head to Denver from New Orleans for the second of a back-to-back. Houston came to Denver back on Dec. 2nd after a double-overtime game in Oakland and dismantled the Nuggets 128-110. This will also be the Rockets' third game in four nights.

Schedule telling me: Rockets should be tired, but if their three ball is going...
Nate says: Rockets win. 

Game 3 at Houston Rockets, Monday March 20: 
The awkward home-and-home game. Houston is a tough place to play and this will be Denver's first trip there this season...

Schedule says: Home team the favorite 
Nate says: Rockets win. 

Game 4 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday March 22:
The Cavaliers will be on a four-game roadtrip that sees them in L.A. over the weekend to face the Clippers and then the Lakers before heading to Denver on Wednesday. The Nuggets best hope that the Cavs take advantage of a weekend in L.A. to the tune of a few "flu like symptoms" reports.

Schedule telling me: Cavs will be favored
Nate says: Cavaliers win. 

Game 5 at Indiana Pacers, Friday March 24:
The Pacers (a very good team at home) head home from Boston on Wednesday, so nothing crazy with their schedule. Denver pounded them 140-112 in London and the Pacers are hovering just above .500 on the season...

Schedule telling me: Home team will be favored 
Nate says: Pacers win. 

Game 6 vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Sunday March 26:
Nothing crazy with the schedules, but it is crazy that DeMarcus Cousins is 6-0 vs. Michael Malone.

Schedule telling me: Home team favored 
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 7 at Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday March 28:
This will be the Blazers third game in four nights and the Nuggets' third game in five nights. It's a monster game for both teams and the Blazers will be coming off a back-to-back set at home vs. the Wolves and a roadie vs. the tanking Lakers.

Schedule telling me: Home team favored 
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 8 at Charlotte Hornets, Friday March 31:
The Nuggets will be playing their second game of a five-game road trip. The good news is Denver has time to adjust to the travel from Portland to Charlotte with two full days off between games. The Hornets will be playing their third game in four nights after a B2B set vs Bucks and at Raptors.

Schedule telling me: Not a strong home team, that could possible be tanking come the end of the month
Nate says: Hornets win. 

Game 9 at Miami Heat, Sunday April 2: 
The Heat posted a 21-5 record from Jan. 17 to March 12... that's insane. They are the feel good story in the NBA, in the race for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, and will be under normal rest when the Nuggets head to town. Miami is not a dominant home team, and Denver will have a shot.

Schedule telling me: Home team favored
Nate says: Heat win. 

Game 10 at New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday April 4:
The Pelicans could be in major tank mode by this time, but there is nothing of note with the schedules other than Denver continuing their five game roadtrip with stop four in NOLA.

Schedule telling me: Home team favored
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 11 at Houston Rockets, Wednesday April 5:
The Rockets will have two full days off before welcoming in the Nuggets (who will be on the second of a back-to-back from NOLA).

Schedule telling me: Rockets huge favorites
Nate says: Rockets win. 

Game 12 vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Friday April 7:
The Pelicans will come to down with two full days of rest, while the Nuggets will be playing their third game in four nights.

Schedule telling me: Trap game
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 13 vs. OKC Thunder Sunday April 9:
The Thunder are in a seed race in the Western Conference, but could have things locked up by this point in time. OKC heads to Denver for the third game of a four game roadtrip, but with a day of rest between their contest with Denver from Phoenix. This is Denver's last home game of the season.

Schedule telling me: Home team advantage
Nate says: Nuggets win. 

Game 14 at Dallas Mavericks, Tuesday April 11:
Both teams play on the 9th, Dallas is in Phoenix and Denver is at home. Another potential monster game for both teams.

Schedule tells me: Home team favored
Nate says: Mavericks win. 

Game 15 at OKC Thunder, Wed. April 12:
The Thunder and Nuggets both will be on the second of a back-to-back with the Thunder in Minnesota and Denver in Dallas the night before.

Schedule telling me: 50/50 game
Nate says: Thunder win. 

Final Count:

I have the Nuggets finishing the season with a 6-9 record for an overall record of 38-44. Here is how I see the Western Conference shaking out for the final spot: 

8.) Portland 39-43
9.)  Denver 38-44
10.) Dallas 36-46
11.) Minnesota 35-47

There are eight games above for Denver that could really go either way that I chose to mark as losses, for now. Those games are: 

1.) The Rockets going 3-0 vs. Denver to close the season. It's hard to beat a team three times in such a short span, but Houston is that good. If Denver can steal one... 

2.) The Cavs winning in Denver. This could be a Nuggets win as Denver seems to get excited about the marquee teams in the league. 

3.) The Nuggets losing three big road games to the Pacers, Hornets and Heat. Steal one of those and we're talking about Denver getting 40 or 40+ wins. 

4.) Can Denver pull off a road win in either Dallas or OKC to round out the season? If so, we could be talking about 40+ wins. 

5.) I also have the Nuggets going 3-0 vs the Pelicans to close the season, which will also be very difficult. 

The final 15 are all nail-biters... 

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