If the playoffs started today, the Denver Nuggets would be safely in as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But when the playoffs officially start, the Nuggets will be at home watching on the couch.
The Nuggets are a streaky team and that might be their downfall as the season winds down and teams jockey for playoff position.
The Nuggets are currently leading the Phoenix Suns by one game and the Utah Jazz by one game-and-a-half. This really leaves no room for error as the season winds down and games start to mean more for teams in the NBA. One loss can have the Nuggets falling to the ninth seed and trying to claw their way back into the final spot in the West.
The Suns have found some new life going 7-3 in their last 10 games. Since this might be Steve Nash's final season in a Suns uniform, this could be Phoenix's final push for the future Hall of Famer.
The Jazz are looking more like a contender for the eighth spot as the season winds down. Utah has won the season series versus the Nuggets, which gives them the tiebreaker if the two teams finished the season tied. Even though the Jazz have been a mediocre 5-5 in their last 10 games, their remaining schedule favors them. Out of the three teams fighting for the last spot, the Jazz have the easiest schedule on paper and play their last three games at home, where they have been on fire.
One thing that has hampered George Karl and the Denver Nuggets has been the injury bug that has been rampant around the NBA. When the Nuggets were on fire looking like a playoff team, the injury of Danilo Gallinari deflated their balloon.
Ever since the ankle sprain Gallinari, hasn’t provided the same spark he once did earlier in the season. Galinari isn’t the only one who has been plagued by injury in Denver. Wilson Chandler has been battling a bad groin and now a hip injury which has him day to day. Rudy Fernandez has gone back to Spain after having back surgery.
With so many injuries happening at the wrong time, it’s going to be hard to get the chemistry on the court, especially with so many rotations and different faces in the lineup. To make matters worst, Al Harrington tore his meniscus during Monday night’s game.
As the season gets more intense and games become worth something, you want a seasoned veteran on your team. This is something that the Nuggets don’t have on the roster. The only veteran they do have is Andre Miller, and he hasn’t really won anything.
The fresh young legs were good when the season started, but youth is no longer a big advantage for Denver. They never have been in a predicament where they had to fight for a playoff spot before. The closest experience that some of these players have had is March Madness, and college basketball is a much different game than the NBA.
At times like this, George Karl needs someone other than him to be the voice in the locker room. At this point of the season, experience beats talent any day.
The games are definitely going to get tighter as the final games of the season approach. If the Nuggets are in one of these last minute predicaments, who will take the game-winning shot?
For the longest time it was Carmelo Anthony taking the final shot. Now with him bringing the Garden back to life, who will George Karl draw up a play for?
Maybe Ty Lawson takes the last shot, but that’s a lot on the shoulders for the second-year player out of UNC. Other than that, the Nuggets don’t have a go to player to go to, more like a bunch of role players made into starters. It might work for a while, but when it counts the most, this method is not going to get the Nuggets far.
Finally, the Nuggets' schedule is not in their favor as they try to hold on to the No. 8 seed. Five of the remaining nine games will be played on the road where the Nuggets are 14-14. The only team that they will play under .500 is the Minnesota Timberwolves ,who have been up and down all season on the back of Kevin Love. The rest of the games will be against playoff teams like the Houston Rockets (twice), Oklahoma Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. It’s going to be a tough road for the Denver Nuggets as they try to keep up in the Western Conference.