The Denver Nuggets’ 2017-18 season has been a roller coaster for a plethora of reasons, but when looking back at what could potentially derail the Nuggets’ playoff aspirations, there is one issue that looms over everything else: indefensible losses at bad times.

The night of March 13th, 2018 was a night of total chaos for the NBA’s Western Conference playoff battle and it is the perfect example of how losing to an inferior team at a bad time can — and likely will — doom the playoff hopes for the Nuggets.

Seven of the eight teams battling for the last six playoff spots in the Western Conference played that night. Every single one of those seven teams came away victorious except for one — the Denver Nuggets. Before all of the matchups had started, Denver was in a three-way tie with the Jazz and Spurs for the 8th, 9th, and 10th seeds with just two games separating the 4th-seeded Thunder from the 10th-seeded Spurs.

After watching the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz — all of whom are battling to be a part of the Western Conferences playoff picture — come away victorious all on the same night, the Nuggets blinked and fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on the road by a score of 112-103 in a loss that needed to be avoided at all costs.

By the end of the night, Denver suddenly found themselves locked into the 10th seed of the Western Conference and trailing the 8th-seeded Jazz by a full game with just 14 games remaining.

While not all is lost for the Nuggets’ season, losing to the Lakers in a must-win situation is the crux as to why this Nuggets’ team is battling to stay relevant in the playoff picture instead of fighting for a top-four seed finish. This was an indefensible loss for the Nuggets that could have been avoided.

Let’s look back over the schedule at the indefensible losses that Denver has sustained throughout the year in addition to the loss to the Lakers. These are not just any kind of loss against a team that Denver is better than; these are the games that are indefensible losses — games that Denver should have absolutely won if the Nuggets want to be taken seriously as a playoff contender.

  • October 18th, 2017 in Utah against the Jazz

Funny enough, Denver’s first game of the season was a nearly perfect microcosm of what Denver was going to deal with for the rest of the year. The Nuggets were playing well in Utah, a notoriously tough city to play in, and led by as many as 15 points at a point in the third quarter. Things were going swimmingly, but as Denver became overconfident, their play began to fall off a cliff.

Everything changed for Denver in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets proceeded to turn the ball over 10 times that led to 16 points for the Jazz. Denver was showing the world how talented they are in the first three quarters against the Jazz, but once the final quarter arrived, Denver blinked and fell apart losing the quarter 28-13 and losing the game 106-96. Denver just flat-out took their foot off the gas and lost their opener.

If Denver wants to be a playoff contender, they cannot lose division games; especially, when the Nuggets led by as many as 15 points.

  • December 30th, 2017 in Denver against the Philadelphia 76ers

When the 76ers — without Joel Embiid — arrived in Denver, the Nuggets were on a hot streak of sorts. They were 3-1 in their last four games with their lone loss coming in overtime at the hands of Jimmy Butler. After that loss, Denver had two days off before hosting the 76ers in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center.

At the time, Philadelphia was 1-7 in the eight games that Embiid did not play in. That singular win when Philadelphia was without their transcendent center doubled by the time the 76ers had left Denver after the Nuggets collapsed and gave away a 14-point lead late in the game.

“I was scared. I just did not have a good feeling the whole day because I know what happens when a star player is out,” Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone said after the loss. “You can say not to relax, but at the end of the day, those guys have talented players.”

Again, taking a night off against a team because the opponent is without their best player is a cardinal sin in the NBA and it led to the Nuggets collapsing in a game that they should have won.

  • January 10th, 2018 in Denver against the Atlanta Hawks

When looking back at winnable games that the Nuggets have lost, the ones that will stick out the most are losses at home against bad teams. Losing to the Hawks at home, who are currently 20-48, is as bad of a loss as possible.

There really isn’t any other analysis worth giving. Denver simply cannot lose to an abysmal Hawks’ team at home while also trying to end a four-year absence from the playoffs.

  • January 19th, 2018 in Denver against the Phoenix Suns

Losing to the Suns in Denver, who are currently 19-50, is an even worse than losing to the Hawks at home.

Let’s just say this one last time: if Denver does not make the playoffs, it will be the losses to bad teams at home that will haunt the Nuggets. There is no justification for losing to the Suns on the Pepsi Center floor.

  • February 27th, 2018 in Denver against the Clippers

The Nuggets battle with the Clippers on February 27th will forever be remembered as ‘the Boban Marjanovich experience’.

Marjanovich did not play a single minute in the first half and is averaging just 5.8 points in 8.3 minutes per game on the season, but this was not just any game. In the 15 minutes that Marjanovich played — all of which came in the second half — he scored 18 points on 5-8 shooting and corralled five offensive rebounds for good measure. He finished the night as a team-high +27 in just 15 minutes of playing time in a two-point game.

Marjanovich entered the game for the first time with the Clippers down 19 points with 4:06 left in the third quarter. From that point forward, Los Angeles outscored Denver 59-38 with Marjanovich leading the charge. The Nuggets had no answer for him and, when things really became bad, Malone had already burnt all but his last timeout out of frustration.

With the defeat at the hands of Los Angeles, Denver lost their tiebreaker with the Clippers — a tiebreaker that could come back to haunt the Nuggets at the end of the season — and fell out of the playoffs.

Again, if you want to be a playoff team, you cannot blow a 19-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

  • March 6th, 2018 in Dallas against the Mavericks

The Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban, has vocally told his team that — and I quote — that, “losing is our best option”. While players do not tank games away, it is impossible to justify a loss to a Mavericks team that is clearly tanking for the long-term success of the franchise in March.

At the time, Denver was battling for playoff seeding with their eyes on possibly stealing home-court advantage in the playoffs. What transpired instead was a sad effort against an even more depressing opponent.

Denver led 62-58 at halftime, which is when they decided to let off the gas and allow the Mavericks to outscore Denver by 15 points in the 3rd quarter effectively ending the game. Denver showed no fight in the fourth quarter as they only mustered 22 points and fell to a tanking Mavericks team once again by a score of 118-107.

If the Nuggets managed to win just three of these seven games instead of adding them to the list of indefensible losses, that would make Denver 40-28 which would slot them in as the fourth seed in the Western Conference as of the morning of March 14th. That is how impactful these types of losses can be in a playoff push.

Instead of fighting for home-court advantage in the playoffs, Denver is now staring down the possibility of missing the postseason entirely. With 14 games remaining — nine of which are on the road and against 12 teams that are currently positioned to make the playoffs — it is going to be unbelievably tough to stack enough wins to make the playoffs in the freakishly-competitive Western Conference.

Denver likely needs to win a minimum of 10 of their final 14 games to comfortably say that they will make the playoffs. That means — if Denver wins all of their remaining home games — the Nuggets will have to win at least five road games out of the nine that they have left on the schedule. Considering that Denver has just 11 wins away from Pepsi Center all season, it is hard to imagine them finishing the season 5-4 on the road.

Regardless of what seed the Nuggets end up with or if the Nuggets miss out on the playoffs this year; they will have no one but themselves to blame — and everyone will share in that blame evenly. Teams lose in the NBA — there is too much talent not to lose games you shouldn’t from time to time, but for the Nuggets to drop seven games that they absolutely should have won — that will haunt the them for a long, long time.