A month ago, the Denver Nuggets looked destined to put an end to their playoff drought. But now, they find themselves at 40-35 and in a difficult spot in the Western Conference playoff chase and need to start a winning streak right now. As a dark cloud hovers over the Pepsi Center, I give you the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: Mile High Sports and Utah Jazz Tribune collide
Nikola Jokic has upped his play for the month of March and is averaging 19.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game at 33.3 minutes and doing everything in his power to try and reel in victories. Gary Harris’ possible return date is on Sunday’s return home in a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. The team has looked completely lost without him balancing the team on both ends of the floor and providing the spacing and toughness the team’s been lacking. But I’ll highlight Mile High Sports’ Nuggets podcast with host T.J. McBride and special guest Tony Jones from the Salt Lake Tribune. The interesting podcast compares Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, Jokic’s play and how that translates to wins versus Rudy Gobert’s impact on defense, draft day trades (Many Nuggets fans are still bitter about trading both to the Jazz) and Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and how he handled the protesters at the arena last week. Give that a listen in the player below, or click here.
The Bad: The Road Woes Continue
To say that the Nuggets have struggled on the road this year would be an understatement. They’ve gone 27-10 at the Pepsi Center — which puts them among the league’s best — but a disappointing 13-25 away from ‘The Can’. Denver’s altitude has always given them a home advantage, but the Nuggets have to have that type of play translate to wins away — and it hasn’t. Three of the last seven games are on the road, so if they can steal a win or two and the rest of the dominoes fall into place for the other teams at the bottom, Denver could still sneak in. They’ll start their climb with a tough division game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday evening, eliminated them from the playoffs last season.
The Ugly: The Western Conference Playoff Race
Of course, the Western Conference playoff race has been ugly for the Nuggets as the season winds down. But back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday and Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, coupled with the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers got themselves a much-needed win against the Bucks on Tuesday night, has now pushed the Nuggets to No. 10 spot in the West. Making the playoffs seems unlikely, but even their slight hope still relies on other teams to lose. Denver has one of the NBA’s toughest remaining schedules, making every game, every quarter, every possession critical.