Denver Nuggets: What the Nuggets Must Improve in Their Final 50 Games

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIJanuary 2, 2013

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 28:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball against Corey Brewer #13 and Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center on December 28, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

At 18-15, the Denver Nuggets currently hold the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings, just percentage points behind the sixth-place Houston Rockets.

For a team as young as Denver, having an 18-15 win-loss record after 33 games is actually a pretty impressive feat.

The Nuggets have also shown that they can compete with just about anyone, as the team has already notched two wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and can now boast that they ended the Los Angeles Clippers' 17-game win streak.

Led by a balanced attack that has six Nuggets averaging double digits in points, this team can beat you with just about any one of its starters or with its first two men off the bench.

Yet there is still plenty of work that needs to be done over the course of the Nuggets' final 49 games of the 2012-13 season.

For starters, this team must work on hitting its free throws.

Of the eight players who have taken the court in just about every game this season, only Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller have hit more than 70 percent of their free throws.

As a team, the Nuggets are shooting 68.1 percent from the free-throw line, which is dead last in the league.

That mark is simply unacceptable.

How is this team supposed to close out games on a consistent basis if it can't even hit 70 percent of its freebies?

Come playoff time, being able to sink those shots is a vital component to winning basketball games. Shooting under 70 percent from the stripe just won't suffice.

Secondly, Denver must start winning more frequently on the road.

So far, the team is 10-1 at the Pepsi Center, something that shouldn't be all that surprising considering the fact that the Nuggets are always tough to beat at home. Altitude, anyone?

The team is only 8-14 outside of Denver, however, and that poses a major problem.

The inability to win away from home is a major reason why the Nuggets haven't reached the second round of the playoffs more than once in their last nine trips.

Their record away from home in the postseason since 2004? 6-25.

While winning an incredible amount of home games may get a team to the postseason, unless it finishes among the top four teams in the standings, it needs to win games away from home as well if it hopes to move on.

This season is shaping up to be yet another year of dominance at home and playing below-average basketball on the road.

If the Nuggets hope to make the playoffs and get past the first round for just the second time in 10 seasons, finding a way to get their game on track outside of Denver is a must.