What’s in store for the Nuggets after the All-Star Break?
As we near the midway point of January, the Nuggets are 21-20 and sitting in seventh place in the Northwest Division. Although there is a bit of gold to be found here, predictive rankings have the Denver at No. 10, so a playoff run is not outside of the realm of possibility.
Let’s look at the Nuggets’ performance up until now:
At 107.3 points per game, the Nuggets are in the upper echelon offensively. The main issue is they are allowing an average of 106.1 points on defense. This makes the Nuggets vulnerable to losses against other high-scoring teams, hence the near-.500 record. The Nuggets have been putting up 53 points per game in the first half, which is just a hair better than middle-of-the-road. But where many high-scoring first half teams start to fade in the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Nuggets are consistent, even scoring just shy of a point more in the second half. At 53.8 points per game in the second half, Denver is ranked #5 in second-half scoring. Only the Warriors, Nets, Raptors, and Suns score more. Denver also tends to clamp down on defense in the second half, allowing under 51 opponent points scored and setting them as the 6th best second-half defensive team. When you combine the second-half offensive performance and second-half defensive performance, the Nuggets rate in as the #3 second-half team in the NBA.
The out of conference win percentage for the Nuggets is 60%, but Denver has been abysmal in covering spreads against Eastern Conference teams –just 35.7% which is #28 in the league in non-conference games against the spread. So, if you are planning on betting any Nuggets games, stick to division games (60% ATS) or after the Nuggets take a loss. They have bounced back extremely well this season, winning 72.2% of the time after a loss. Also, pay attention to second-half lines, when the Nuggets are hot at sites like 5Dimes which will carry odds on all NBA games.
After the break
We would hope Coach Malone works on improving first-half defensive work ethic. If Denver can bring a similar defensive performance to the 1st half, they will be sitting inside the league’s top-8 defensive teams –around 102-103 points allowed per game, and they’ll quickly climb towards a playoff berth. It will also be very interesting to see what Arturas Karnisovas does for (or to) the Nuggets in his first February trade-deadline as GM.
No matter what Karnisovas is able to finagle, coming out strong directly after the All-Star Break will not be a cakewalk by any means. The Nuggets have a brutal schedule to finish out the month of February and the start of March. Their first game after the break is at Home against the San Antonio Spurs, then the Houston Rockets come to Denver … followed by the Los Angeles Clippers. Right after their home stretch, the Nuggets have to go to Memphis and face the Grizzlies and then head up to face LeBron and company in Cleveland.
Facing the #4, #5, right off the bat, then the #6 on the road is definitely a tough test. But even if the Nuggets drop a few immediately following the break, not all hope is lost. They’ll get a chance to make it up as we move into March with a slight reprieve in schedule difficulty. After Cleveland, they get a few from the bottom of the barrel. The Dallas Mavericks, unfortunately, the Cavs again, but then the Sacramento Kings, and the Los Angeles Lakers twice to build some momentum as they head through March and make a run at the 2018 playoffs.