The Denver Nuggets entered the All-Star break this past weekend with a 41-18 record. It’s the best record in the Western Conference and one game back of the Boston Celtics for the best record in the NBA. Nikola Jokić is currently the favorite to win a third straight MVP award. The Nuggets are currently the clear favorite to pace the West heading into the playoffs with a four-game lead in the loss column over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Of course, a lot can change after the All-Star break.

The Nuggets will play 23 more games across February, March, and April before the most important playoff run in franchise history. After trading away Bones Hyland at the trade deadline and bringing in veterans Reggie Jackson and Thomas Bryant, the Nuggets will have a limited time to ready their rotation for the biggest test of their careers to date.

Here’s what’s in store for the Nuggets over the next 23 games:

(Back-to-Back sets denoted in bold)


  • Thursday, 2/23 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Saturday, 2/25 @ Memphis Grizzlies
  • Sunday, 2/26 vs Los Angeles Clippers
  • Tuesday, 2/28 @ Houston Rockets

The Nuggets will begin their post All-Star break schedule with a trio of difficult opponents. The Cavaliers are 25-6 at home while the Grizzlies are 24-5 themselves, two top five records in home games. Donovan Mitchell and Ja Morant are two players the Nuggets have historically struggled to contain.

Then, the Nuggets return home for a back-to-back matchup against the Clippers, the return of Bones Hyland to the Mile High City. The Clippers do not have any rest issues leading up to that matchup, meaning the Nuggets are likely to face an improved and motivated Clippers team while on short rest themselves.

After that, the Nuggets will head to Houston for the first time this season to play the 13-45 Rockets. Here’s hoping they take advantage of that matchup.

Common sense says the Nuggets go 2-2 during this stretch, but if they go 3-1 or better, that would be impressive.


  • Friday, 3/3 vs Memphis Grizzlies
  • Monday, 3/6 vs Toronto Raptors
  • Wednesday, 3/8 vs Chicago Bulls
  • Friday, 3/10 @ San Antonio Spurs
  • Sunday, 3/12 vs Brooklyn Nets

After two days off, the Nuggets will host the Grizzlies in the third and final matchup of the season, one that could certainly determine tiebreaker scenarios if the Nuggets are unable to get a win in Memphis the week prior. Another two days off, then the Nuggets host the Raptors and Bulls on the following Monday and Wednesday. The Raptors will be in the midst of a five-game road trip while the Bulls will have multiple days off prior to the matchup.

Then, the Nuggets pop over to San Antonio for what should likely be an easy matchup against the Spurs before coming back to Ball Arena to host the new-look Nets. Interestingly, the Spurs will have four days off leading up to that matchup. The Nets will be on the fourth game of a five-game trip across middle America.

There’s no reason why the Nuggets can’t go 5-0 during this stretch. If they defend home court, they should go 5-0.

  • Tuesday, 3/14 @ Toronto Raptors
  • Thursday, 3/16 @ Detroit Pistons
  • Saturday, 3/18 @ New York Knicks
  • Sunday, 3/19 @ Brooklyn Nets
  • Wednesday, 3/22 @ Washington Wizards

The last extended road trip of the Nuggets season begins in Canada. The Nuggets will face the Raptors just eight days after their first matchup. Then, they travel just under four hours southwest by car to Detroit to face the Pistons. Expect the Nuggets to look for “revenge” after the Pistons stole a win back in November.

After that, the Nuggets will play their subway station back-to-back in New York City against the Knicks and the Nets. Both games have early start times on the East coast, meaning things could get weird for the Nuggets there.

Finally, the Nuggets will have a couple days off in the nation’s capital before facing the Wizards to end the five-game trip.

Because it’s a road trip, it’s highly unlikely the Nuggets win all five games, though all five are winnable. The Nuggets should probably go 4-1, but let’s be safe and say they actually go 3-2 with something weird happening.

  • Saturday, 3/25 vs Milwaukee Bucks
  • Monday, 3/27 vs Philadelphia 76ers
  • Thursday, 3/30 vs New Orleans Pelicans
  • Friday, 3/31 @ Phoenix Suns

To wrap up March, the Nuggets play their most difficult four-game stretch of the season. They host two MVP candidates in a row in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid in Game 74 and Game 75 of the season. Of course, the Bucks will be on the second night of a back-to-back having played in Utah the prior night, so it’s possible the Bucks may rest Giannis and their other stars. The Sixers will be playing their final game of a four-game road trip, and it will be their third game in four nights, so it’s possible the Sixers rest Embiid and their other stars at that point too.

Of course, MVP narratives may shift all of this around, so don’t be surprised if Giannis or Embiid overrule their team’s training staff in order to play those matchups.

After the Sixers matchup, the Nuggets will get two days off before a back-to-back, facing the Pelicans (who will be at the end of a four-game road trip) at home before going on the road to play Kevin Durant and the new-look Suns. The Nuggets will likely prioritize the home game and rest their stars on the road, though it would be nice to see a matchup where both of those teams went at each other prior to the playoffs.

The safe record prediction is 2-2 for this stretch, bringing March to 10-4 as a whole.


  • Sunday, 4/2 vs Golden State Warriors
  • Tuesday, 4/4 @ Houston Rockets
  • Thursday, 4/6 @ Phoenix Suns
  • Saturday, 4/8 @ Utah Jazz
  • Sunday, 4/9 vs Sacramento Kings

The final home game the Nuggets may care about is a game against the Warriors, who will almost certainly care about the matchup too. The Warriors are currently 29-29 and will be battling for playoff position for the next two months. If they want to avoid the play-in, they need to make up two wins to pass the Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently reside in sixth place.

After that matchup, the Nuggets will go on a three-game road trip to Houston, Phoenix, and Utah. None of those teams will have rest issues due to prior games, but some of them may have…less interest…in competing hard late in the season. Phoenix will likely go hard, and maybe that’s a good opportunity for a “playoff tuneup” if such a thing exists.

Then, in the final game of the season, the Nuggets will return home on the second night of a back-to-back to face the Kings. Sacramento may be jockeying for playoff position and may have an interest (one way or the other) in manipulating the playoff bracket in Game 82. Here’s hoping the Nuggets don’t have to do the same.

Perhaps the Nuggets will have wrapped up homecourt in the Western Conference playoffs by that point and won’t be super competitive themselves. There’s a possibility that by this portion of the regular season, Nikola Jokić is averaging a triple-double, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are fully integrated and ready to go for the playoffs, and the Nuggets have wrapped up the top seed in the West. If those three things line up, there may be a fair amount of rest during this stretch.

As a result, let’s just predict 3-2 during this stretch, though I have a nagging feeling it could be 2-3 or 1-4 instead.

Adding up the 2-2 prediction in February to 10-4 in March and 3-2 in April leads to a 15-8 predicted record during the final 23 games of the season. That would place the Nuggets with a 56-26 record at the end of the year, one of the best marks in franchise history, though not the best.

If the Nuggets wanted to push for the best record in franchise history, or perhaps push harder for the top seed in the entire NBA playoff field, they have an opportunity to do so. Getting off to a good start in Cleveland and Memphis this coming Thursday and Saturday would go a long way in that quest. The same could be said for locking in during Denver’s five game-road trip in March, exclusively against non-elite Eastern Conference teams.

If a determination is made that rest and recovery is the best course of action, the Nuggets can certainly go that route too. Their “Magic Number” to claim the top seed in the Western Conference is currently 20*. A magic number involves the combined number of Nuggets wins and opposing team losses (in this case, the second place Grizzlies) that would lead to the Nuggets clinching a certain spot in the playoffs. For example, if the Grizzlies go 19-6 in their final 25 games, they would have a record of 54-28 at the end of the year. Those six losses would count against the magic number, meaning the Nuggets would have to win 14 games *(14 Nuggets wins + 6 Grizzlies losses = 20) to clinch a spot higher than the Grizzlies.

Long story short, if the Grizzlies to 19-6 to end the year, the Nuggets would only need to go 14-9 to outpace them and finish with the top seed in the West.

Of course, tiebreakers change the calculation, as would the Sacramento Kings going 23-2 to end their season. We can worry about that later though.

The Nuggets are in a great spot. They don’t need a lot to go their way in order to finish as the top seed in the West. They’ve done great work this year, and they have a perfectly reasonable schedule in their final 23 games to ensure they get the job done. Jokić has been fantastic, and the rest of the rotation of Murray, Porter, Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the bench have done more than enough to put the Nuggets in position to succeed.

Now, it’s up to the Nuggets to finish as strong as they want to in preparation for what should be an epic Western Conference playoff battle. We will see if they’re up to the challenge.