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How Far Can The Nuggets Go?

Right now, the Nuggets own a 51-25 record, which makes this year their best season since 2013 when they went 57-25. If they manage to finish the season 6-0, they’ll tie that record and be the number one seed.

The Playoffs are set to begin in 11 days, and for Denver to get to that first seed, one of two things needs to happen. They need to either beat the Warriors tonight, whom they’ve matched up with poorly, or finish with a better record, which seems unlikely given Golden State’s far easier schedule.

For the purposes of this analysis, it will be assumed that the Western Conference standings maintain status quo, and the Nuggets finish in second. If this were the case to reach the Conference Finals, they’d need to beat San Antonio in the first round, and then either the Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Clippers in the second round. So how far can the Nuggets go?

First Round: San Antonio Vs Denver

nuggets-playoffs-spurs-gregg popovich
It’s a tall task to beat a Gregg Popovich-coached team in the playoffs, especially when that team’s had your number this season. Photo by Bahram Mark Sobhani/AP

The Spurs and Nuggets faced off three times this year, and San Antonio won the season series 2-1. Neither team managed to beat the other at home, so it’s a possibility that the season series would’ve been a tie had there been a fourth game in Denver. When the teams first met on December 26, the Nuggets were without Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, and they lost by eight. Two days later, they won by three even though Harris and Millsap were both still out. In their most recent matchup on March 4, the Spurs won at home against a full strength Denver squad, albeit by just one point. Suffice to say, the season series has been close. While the Nuggets were missing key players for two of the three games, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they lose in the first round to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

Second Round: Portland/LA Vs Denver

Assuming the Nuggets make it out alive, they’ll take on either the Blazers or the Clippers. The two teams have a couple more games left against each other this season, but thus far the Nuggets are up 2-0. Both teams were healthy for each matchup, and each team had a game at home. Furthermore, Portland had a healthy Jusuf Nurkic in both games, and in their upcoming matchups, they will not. The teams’ final two contests will likely be most indicative of how this series would play out, but without their starting center against an elite talent like Nikola Jokic, the Blazers will more than likely lose the series.

The Nuggets won the season series against the Clippers 3-1, however, they only faced LA’s new squad sans Tobias Harris once. Even so, Denver won by 27 in that game, so it seems like a solid bet that they’d take down the Clippers in a seven game series.

Conference Finals

If the Nuggets make it this far, they’ll most likely be squaring off against the Warriors. Regardless, here is a look at how Denver has fared against each of their four possible opponents.

Denver vs Golden State
Beating the Warriors is almost certainly a requirement to make it out of the West and into the NBA Finals. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Head to head: 1-2 (Golden State)

Point Differential: 15.3 points (in favor of the Warriors)

Prediction: Golden State wins in five or six games.

Houston Vs Denver

Head to head: 3-1 (Houston)

Point Differential: 8.75 points (in favor of the Rockets)

Prediction: Houston wins in six games.

Oklahoma City Vs Denver

Head to head: 0-4 (Denver)

Point Differential: 11.75 points (in favor of the Nuggets)

Prediction: Denver wins in five games.

Utah Vs Denver

Head to head: 2-1 (Utah)

Point Differential: 2 points (in favor of the Nuggets)

Prediction: Could go either way, but Denver in seven.

Finals

Essentially for the Nuggets to make it here, they should hope to duck Golden State and Houston. With the current bracket, they will more than likely play each other in the second round, so this will likely be impossible. Assuming Denver pulls it off, we’ll take a look at their records against each of the eight teams in the East.

Denver Vs Milwaukee
bucks-nuggets-denver-milwaukee-playoffs-finals-nba finals
The Bucks have the number one seed locked down, and they’ve had Denver’s number thus far this season. Could the Nuggets get their revenge in the Finals? Photo by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Head to head: 0-2 (Milwaukee)

Point Differential: 6.5 points (Bucks)

Prediction: Milwaukee wins in six.

Denver Vs Toronto

Head to head: 2-0 (Denver)

Point Differential: 6 points (Nuggets)

Prediction: Denver wins in seven.

Philadelphia Vs Denver

Head to head: 1-1

Point Differential: 4.5 points (Nuggets)

Prediction: Denver wins in seven.

Boston Vs Denver

Head to head: 0-2 (Denver)

Point Differential: 8.5 points (Nuggets)

Prediction: Denver wins in five.

Indiana Vs Denver

Head to head: 1-1

Point Differential: 17 points (Pacers)

Prediction: Denver wins in seven.

Detroit Vs Denver

Head to head: 1-1

Point Differential: 11.5 points (Pistons)

Prediction: Denver wins in six.

Brooklyn Vs Denver

Head to head: 2-0 (Brooklyn)

Point Differential: 3.5 points (Nets)

Prediction: Denver wins in six.

Miami Vs Denver

Head to head: 2-0 (Denver)

Point Differential: 10 points (Nuggets)

Prediction: Denver wins in four or five.

The Verdict

For the Denver Nuggets to win the championship this year, it’ll take a combination of excellent play and extreme luck. If they are matched with the Spurs in the first round, expect a hard-fought series that the Nuggets could very well lose. While the second round should be considerably easier against either an injured Portland or a less skilled Clippers team, the Conference Finals are likely to be brutal against either Golden State or Houston. If they do make it to the finals, however, they could ostensibly beat any Eastern Conference team, however, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Philly all match up quite well with the current Denver squad.


Stats courtesy of ESPN

Featured image courtesy of Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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2019 NBA Playoffs: Nuggets vs. Spurs Preview • The Game Haus April 13, 2019 at 8:37 am

[…] two seed vs. seven seed matchup in the Western Conference will feature the Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio […]

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