The Denver Nuggets have played 56 games so far this season, compiling a record of 25-31. As it stands, that record is good for the eighth best in the Western Conference, meaning that if the season ended today the Nuggets would be in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Well, the season is not over. There are still 26 games left to play for the Nuggets, and for the first time in a long time, those games will have meaning.

“26 games to go and I’m looking forward to the challenge down the stretch of playing meaningful games and try to become a playoff team,” head coach Michael Malone said. “One game at a time, don’t get too high, don’t get too low and be ready for the next challenge that is in front of us. “

Malone described the Nuggets Pre-All-Star season as a “rollercoaster” but reaffirmed that since the decision to shake up the lineup on Dec. 15, his team has been far and above a better unit.

Since the swap, the Nuggets have posted a winning record of 16-15.

The handful of games leading up the break were tough for Denver. The injury bug plagued the Nuggets down the stretch as they were forced to play without guys like Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur With that, coach Malone admitted that the break came at the right time.

“It’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately,” Malone said. “We have five guys out, and five very important players. It’s tough to replace guys like Chandler, Gallinari, Faried, Arthur and Mudiay … I think this break is coming at the right time for all of us mentally and physically. We can get some rest, get away and get our minds right, and know that when we come back we have 26 games to go to make a push to try to be a playoff team.”

The Nuggets have been a talking point of the NBA the past week or so due to the emergence of Nikola Jokic as a potential cornerstone, trading of Jusuf Nurkic for Mason Plumlee, and their current standing in the Western Conference’s playoff picture.

The next few days will give the squad ample time to regroup and refocus as they have their sights on leading the Nuggets to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.