Denver Nuggets 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

Sim Risso@@SimRissoFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

Denver Nuggets 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

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    The Denver Nuggets have qualified for the postseason in nine consecutive seasons. But despite their ability to make the playoffs, the Nuggets have only advanced as far as the Western Conference finals one time during that span. Is this the year the Nuggets make some noise in the postseason?

    It's certainly possible that this is Denver's year to shine. Granted, the Nuggets are returning a team that's not much different than the one that was knocked out in the first round by the Lakers in 2011-12. However, the Nuggets are a young team, so it's conceivable that they could markedly improve through progression with their own players instead of going out and making huge splashes in free agency.

    Either way, it figures to be an exciting year for the Nuggets and their fans. They'll get to see the return of Carmelo Anthony to Denver and another year of chemistry between their young nucleus of Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried.

October/November Schedule

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    Wednesday, October 31 @ Philadelphia 76ers

    Friday, November 2 @ Orlando Magic

    Saturday, November 3 @ Miami Heat

    Tuesday, November 6 vs. Detroit Pistons

    Wednesday, November 7 @ Houston Rockets

    Friday, November 9 vs. Utah Jazz

    Saturday, November 10 @ Golden State Warriors

    Monday, November 12 @ Phoenix Suns

    Thursday, November 15 vs. Miami Heat

    Saturday, November 17 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Monday, November 19 @ Memphis Grizzlies

    Wednesday, November 21 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    Friday, November 23 vs. Golden State Warriors

    Sunday, November 25 vs. New Orleans Hornets

    Monday, November 26 @ Utah Jazz

    Thursday, November 29 @ Golden State Warriors

    Friday, November 30 @ L.A. Lakers

Key October/November Games

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    Friday, November 9 vs. Utah Jazz

    The up-and-coming Jazz travel to Denver for the first matchup of 2012-13 for the division rivals. Both teams were fairly equal last season, with the Nuggets posting a better overall record by only two games. This will be an early chance to see how the two will match up this season.

    Thursday, November 15 vs. Miami Heat

    Miami travels to Denver to take on the Nuggets for what will be the defending champ's only trip to the Mile High City. It's an interesting game because fans will get an up-close look at LeBron and co. Also, it's intriguing because it gives the Nuggets an early opportunity to measure themselves against the NBA's elite.

    Saturday, November 17 @ San Antonio Spurs

    This game will provide the Nuggets their first look at the team with the best win-loss record in the Western Conference for the last two years. Since the game is being played in San Antonio, it will provide a true road test for the Nuggets.

    Friday, November 30 @ L.A. Lakers

    After getting bumped from the playoffs in seven games by the Lakers in 2011-12, this game will be Denver's first chance to exact a little revenge. It will also be interesting to see how Denver handles Los Angeles now that Steve Nash is in the mix for L.A.

    October/November Win-Loss Prediction: 10-7

    Wins: Philadelphia, Orlando, Detroit, Houston, Utah, Phoenix, Minnesota, Golden State, New Orleans, Golden State

    Losses: Miami, Golden State, Miami, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, L.A. Lakers

Preview and Prediction for October/November

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of October/November

    Not only will the Nuggets' two matchups with the Miami Heat be a good test for the team, they'll also provide the best individual matchup. The games should pit Danilo Gallinari against LeBron James.

    Obviously James is the superior player, but both Gallinari and James play a similar brand of ball on offense.They're two of the biggest small forwards in the NBA, but both are incredibly versatile and athletic.

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario for October/November

    Given the Nuggets' difficult schedule in the early part of the season, it's hard to envision them getting through October/November unscathed. Nine of Denver's 17 games are against playoff teams from last season, with seven of those games on the road. If the ball bounces in their favor, the Nuggets could go 13-4.

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario for October/November

    As good as the Nuggets are, their difficult schedule in October/November could be too difficult to overcome. With road matchups against playoff teams like Philadelphia, Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah and Golden State, plus home matchups against Utah and Miami, it's not impossible for Denver to go 8-9 in October/November.

December Schedule

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    Monday, December 3 vs. Toronto Raptors

    Wednesday, December 5 @ Atlanta Hawks

    Friday, December 7 @ Indiana Pacers

    Sunday, December 9 @ New York Knicks

    Tuesday, December 11 @ Detroit Pistons

    Wednesday, December 12 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    Friday, December 14 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    Sunday, December 16 @ Sacramento Kings

    Tuesday, December 18 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Thursday, December 20 @ Portland Trail Blazers

    Saturday, December 22 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    Tuesday, December 25 @ L.A. Clippers

    Wednesday, December 26 vs. L.A. Lakers

    Friday, December 28 @ Dallas Mavericks

    Saturday, December 29 @ Memphis Grizzlies

Key December Games

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    Wednesday, December 12 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    A game at Minnesota by itself isn't really a key matchup. Sure, the T-Wolves figure to be an improved team this season, especially if Ricky Rubio can stay healthy. Even then, the Nuggets should be able to handle the Timberwolves in Minnesota.

    What makes this game intriguing is that Denver will be playing Minnesota on a back-to-back. Add fatigue into the mix, and suddenly this game becomes more difficult.

    Tuesday, December 25 @ L.A. Clippers

    This game should be fun for a couple of different reasons. First, it's the Nuggets' first game against the Clippers of the 2012-13. The Clippers and the Nuggets both figure to be playoff teams, making it a good test. Second, the game will be played on Christmas Day and nationally televised, so you can expect a spirited effort from both teams.

    Wednesday, December 26 vs. L.A. Lakers

    Any game against the L.A. Lakers is a key game for the Nuggets. Throw into the mix that both teams will be playing back-to-backs. Adding even more intrigue is that both teams will play their Christmas games in L.A., meaning they're not only both playing on consecutive days but also are traveling the same distance for the game.

    It should make it so neither team has any advantages beyond the obvious home vs. road factors.

    December Win-Loss Prediction: 10-5

    Wins: Toronto, Indiana, New York, Detroit, Memphis, Sacramento, Portland, Charlotte, L.A. Lakers, Dallas

    Losses: Atlanta, Minnesota, San Antonio, L.A. Clippers, Memphis

Previews and Predictions for December

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of December

    When the Nuggets travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers on December 7, it will be a game that pits two of the NBA's rising young centers against each other. Both JaVale McGee and Hibbert are familiar with each other from McGee's time in the Eastern Conference.

    They're players with different strengths, which should make it a fun matchup to watch. McGee's one of the better defenders at center, while Hibbert has one of the better offensive games at center. That should make a collision between McGee's above-average defense and Hibbert's above-average offense.

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario

    Nine of Denver's 15 games in December are against playoff teams from 2011-12. That should make for a difficult schedule. That said, games vs. San Antonio, Memphis and the L.A. Lakers are in Denver, making them more manageable for the Nuggets.

    If the Nuggets handle their business against inferior teams on the road and win some close games against the playoff teams at home, the Nuggets could go 12-3 in December. 

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario

    Not only do the Nuggets have nine matchups against playoff teams from last season, they've also got three back-to-backs. with two of them against playoff teams from last year. Those games could prove difficult to win.

    Denver also has a three-game road Eastern Conference road trip against Atlanta, Indiana and New York, who all made the playoffs a season ago. With the road trip and the back-to-backs, Denver could conceivably go 7-8 in December.

January Schedule

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    Tuesday, January 1 vs. L.A. Clippers

    Thursday, January 3 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Saturday, January 5 vs. Utah Jazz

    Sunday, January 6 @ L.A. Lakers

    Wednesday, January 9 vs. Orlando Magic

    Friday, January 11 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Sunday, January 13 vs. Golden State Warriors

    Tuesday, January 15 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Wednesday, January 16 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Friday, January 18 vs. Washington Wizards

    Sunday, January 20 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Wednesday, January 23 @ Houston Rockets

    Saturday, January 26 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Monday, January 28 vs. Indiana Pacers

    Wednesday, January 30 vs. Houston Rockets

Key January Games

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    Tuesday, January 1 vs. L.A. Clippers

    After playing the Clippers on Christmas in Los Angeles, the Nuggets will take on the Clippers in Denver on New Year's Day. If they lose on Christmas, it will provide the Nuggets a chance to get some revenge. A win on New Year's will also give the Nuggets a chance to start 2013 out on the right foot.

    Wednesday, January 16 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    This will be Denver's first game against the Thunder in the 2012-13 season. Taking on a team as good as the Thunder is never easy. However, making it even for difficult for the Nuggets is that they'll be playing the Thunder in the second game of a back-to-back.

    By beating the Thunder, Denver will have a cornerstone victory. If the Nuggets lose, they'll at least have the excuse that it was on a back-to-back.

    Friday, January 18 vs. Washington Wizards

    You may ask, since when is a game against the Washington Wizards a key matchup? Generally speaking, games against the Wizards aren't that key. But there's an exception this time because Denver's game against Washington is sandwiched by games against Oklahoma City.

    It's possible that Denver loses both games to the Thunder. If that's the case, losing to the Wizards means the Nuggets have a three-game losing streak.

    January Win-Loss Prediction: 11-4

    Wins: L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, Utah, Orlando, Cleveland, Golden State, Portland, Washington, Houston, Sacramento, Indiana

    Losses: L.A. Lakers, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Houston

Previews and Predictions for January

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of January

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the Nuggets play the Clippers on New Year's Day. The game should have plenty of matchups worth looking forward to, but the one that stands out the most is the battle between Ty Lawson and Chris Paul.

    Lawson is an up-and-coming point guard, while Paul is an established star in the NBA. Both players are incredibly quick and are excellent distributors. It should make for a fun game.

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario for January

    Eight of Denver's 15 games are against teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2011-12. On top of that, 12 of Denver's 15 games are at home.

    That should make for a very successful month for the Nuggets, with the only really difficult games being the two against the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Denver gets on a roll, it could finish the month with a 14-1 record.

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario for January

    Given their opponents and their 12 home games, it's hard to imagine the Nuggets not having a lot of success in January. They could lose both games against Oklahoma City and games against the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz and one against Houston. Even then, the Nuggets would still go 9-6 in January.

February Schedule

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    Friday, February 1 vs. New Orleans Hornets

    Tuesday, February 5 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Thursday, February 7 vs. Chicago Bulls

    Saturday, February 9 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

    Sunday, February 10 @ Boston Celtics

    Tuesday, February 12 @ Toronto Raptors

    Wednesday, February 13 @ Brooklyn Nets

    Tuesday, February 19 vs. Boston Celtics

    Friday, February 22 @ Washington Wizards

    Saturday, February 23 @ Charlotte Bobcats

    Monday, February 25 vs. L.A. Lakers

    Wednesday, February 27 @ Portland Trail Blazers

Key February Games

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    Thursday, February 7 vs. Chicago

    The Bulls posted the NBA's best winning percentage during the regular season in 2011-12. With the injury to Derrick Rose, it's unknown how well he'll respond or how much success the Bulls will have as a team. But this much is certain: As long as Thom Thibodeau is coaching in Chicago, the Bulls will be a good defensive team.

    Considering Denver was one of the best offensive teams in 2011-12, this game should be fun to watch and one that will give the Nuggets a barometer of how they perform against a top defense.

    Wednesday, February 13 @ Brooklyn Nets

    This will be Denver's first trip to Brooklyn to take on the Nets. The Nets figure to be an improved team this season but one that the Nuggets should be able to handle. The game is the last game before the All-Star game, so the Nuggets should be able to give it everything they've got without worrying about conserving energy for a back-to-back.

    Tuesday, February 19 vs. Boston Celtics

    If there's ever a good time to get on a roll, it will be this game against the Celtics. This game marks the start of the second half of the season, and it will provide a good opportunity for Denver to start the half on the right foot.

    However, Boston should be well-rested from the All-Star break, meaning the Nuggets won't be able to catch Boston's veterans while they're fatigued.

    February Win-Loss Prediction: 8-4

    Wins: New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, Washington, Charlotte, L.A. Lakers

    Losses: Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn, Portland

Previews and Predictions for February

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of February

    One of the top rookies from last year's class was Denver power forward Kenneth Faried. Faried proved to be a solid rebounder, and his offensive game improved as the season went on. On February 1, Faried will get to go against the No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 draft, Anthony Davis.

    Both players have bright futures, so it will be interesting to see how one of the top sophomores does against one of the top rookies.

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario for February

    Outside of games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics, there are no teams on February's schedule that are clearly equal to or above the Nuggets. Sure, the Nets could be a good team, but they're still unproven at this point. That means Denver could potentially go 10-2 in February.

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario for February

    Although there are only a few teams that could pose problems to Denver, nine of the Nuggets' last 11 games are on the road. The Nuggets were a respectable 18-15 on the road in 2011-12, so they should be able to handle their business. But if they were to somehow falter, the Nuggets could go 4-8.

March Schedule

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    Friday, March 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Monday, March 4 vs. Atlanta Hawks

    Tuesday, March 5 @ Sacramento Kings

    Thursday, March 7 vs. L.A. Clippers

    Saturday, March 9 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Monday, March 11 @ Phoenix Suns

    Wednesday, March 13 vs. New York Knicks

    Friday, March 15 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    Monday, March 18 @ Chicago Bulls

    Tuesday, March 19 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Thursday, March 21 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    Saturday, March 23 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Monday, March 25 @ New Orleans Hornets

    Wednesday, March 27 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Friday, March 29 vs. Brooklyn Nets

Key March Games

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    Wednesday, March 13 vs. New York Knicks

    Carmelo Anthony is one of the most recognizable players in the history of the Denver Nuggets. But since Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks during the 2010-11 season, he has yet to return to Denver as a member of the Knicks.

    It will be interesting to see what type of welcome he receives in Denver. On the one hand, he helped bring the Nuggets from cellar-dwellers to perennial playoff contenders. On the other hand, his departure from the Nuggets was somewhat ugly, as it was surrounded by months of trade speculation.

    Monday, March 18 @ Chicago Bulls and Tuesday, March 19 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    By themselves, each of these games will be difficult to win for the Nuggets. Considering they've got to face the Bulls and the Thunder as part of a back-to-back, it will be fun to see how the Nuggets handle it.

    Accepting losing certainly isn't an ideal situation, but if Denver can get a split between these two games, it will be a small victory.

    March Win-Loss Prediction: 7-8

    Wins: Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Phoenix, Memphis, Philadelphia, Sacramento, New Orleans

    Losses: Atlanta, Sacramento, L.A. Clippers, New York, Chicago, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Brooklyn.

Previews and Predictions for March

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of March

    When Danilo Gallinari and Carmelo Anthony go against each other, not only will it put two of the best small forwards against one another, but it will also be a matchup of two guys that were traded for each other.  

    Gallinari is more athletic than Anthony, but Anthony is a superior player and more clutch. It will be interesting to see how they match up and which team ends up coming out on top in this one.

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario for March

    There are a lot of really good teams that the Nuggets will be taking on in March. Because of this, it will probably be their most difficult month. Denver's a good team in its own right, so there's always the possibility that they'll be peaking at the right time. If that's the case, the Nuggets could go 10-5 in March.

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario for March

    As was just mentioned, the Nuggets have a lot of really difficult games in March. They could play at their normal rate and still manage to post a sub-.500 record in the month.

    If they catch some opponents on the wrong night, March could be really disastrous. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Denver post a 6-9 record for the month, but if things really go badly, they could be even worse at 4-11.

April Schedule

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    Wednesday, April 3 @ Utah Jazz

    Thursday, April 4 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    Saturday, April 6 vs. Houston Rockets

    Wednesday, April 10 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Friday, April 12 @ Dallas Mavericks

    Sunday, April 14 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Monday, April 15 @ Milwaukee Bucks

    Wednesday, April 17 vs. Phoenix Suns

Key April Games

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    Wednesday, April 3 @ Utah Jazz

    Considering the close proximity between the Nuggets and the Jazz in the 2011-12 standings, it's likely that both teams will be battling it out for a playoff spot or playoff positioning in 2012-13.

    Winning head-to-head games like this one is crucial because not only does it guarantee a win for you, but it also ensures a loss for the team you're battling in the standings.

    Monday, April 15 @ Milwaukee Bucks

    This game marks the last back-to-back of Denver's season as well as its last road game. With the Bucks potentially in the mix for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, capturing this game will be extremely important to both teams.

    Wednesday, April 17 vs. Phoenix Suns

    With the Nuggets likely heading to the postseason, it will be important for them to finish the season on a strong note. With this being the last game of the regular season, it's key that Denver comes out with a win.

    Luckily for Denver, this game is a home game, which should make it easier for the Nuggets to come out on top.

    April Win-Loss Prediction: 5-3

    Wins: Utah, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix

    Losses: Dallas, Portland, Milwaukee

Previews and Predictions for April

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of April

    Taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in the second-to-last game of the season will provide a good matchup for the two teams. It should also provide a nice individual matchup between Monta Ellis and Aaron Afflalo.

    In this matchup you'll have one guy who scores but doesn't provide much on defense (Ellis) going against a guy who can really defend but could use some work on his offensive game (Afflalo).

    Nuggets' Best-Case Scenario for April

    Five of Denver's eight games are played at home. Also, of Denver's eight games, four of them are against teams that weren't in the postseason in 2011-12. The favorable schedule could help push Denver to a 7-1 record in April.

    Nuggets' Worst-Case Scenario for April

    While it's true that only four of the Nuggets' eight games are against playoff teams from a year ago, it's also true that teams like Houston and Milwaukee are likely to be much better than they were in 2011-12. That could make for a much more difficult schedule in April than originally anticipated. It's not out of the question to see Denver post a 3-5 record in April.

Final Predictions

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    Final Record: 51-31

    For the most part, the Nuggets are returning the same caliber of team that they finished with last season. What they have going for them is that they're a young team, so it's always possible that their players can develop.

    However, even with an improvement by the Nuggets, some playoff teams like the Lakers and Clippers have made marked improvements to their rosters. Other non-playoff teams from 2011-12 like the Rockets and Timberwolves have improved their chances of sneaking into the playoffs. Then there are playoff teams like the Thunder and Jazz, who are also young and figure to improve as much as Denver.

    Despite all this jostling, it looks like the Nuggets will end up in about the same position as 2011-12, when they finished with the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

    Denver should be able to keep its playoff streak alive, but given the depth of the Western Conference, it's hard to imagine Denver moving into the top four seeds or challenging some of the NBA's elite in the playoffs.

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