There is no denying that the Denver Nuggets have made their path to the playoffs as difficult and improbable as possible, but the one thing that they cannot be faulted for is throwing in the towel and accepting defeat.

There are just six games remaining in the regular season for the Nuggets and they are still two full games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but all hope is not yet lost; especially after Denver’s 126-125 overtime victory in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

It cannot be understated how improbable the Nuggets’ win in Oklahoma City was. The matchup against the Thunder was the final game of a season-long, seven-game road trip that spanned over 6700 miles, lasted 15 days, and was spread between seven cities in two different countries, as Christopher Dempsey of Altitude Sports explained. The simple fact that the Nuggets’ players even had the energy to close out a tightly-contested and physical overtime game was impressive enough. When taking into account that the tiebreaker between the Nuggets and Thunder was on the line, how badly the Nuggets needed a win on the backend of losing two-straight games, and how badly the Thunder also wanted a victory after dropping three of their last four games, it was downright gutsy for Denver to waltz into Oklahoma — without Gary Harris — and pull out the victory and secure the season tiebreaker.

So where does that leave the Nuggets path to the playoffs? Well, for the Nuggets to give themselves the best possible shot, there are two things they can do: accumulate as many wins against divisional opponents as the schedule allows and lock up any tiebreakers that have yet to be decided. The Nuggets’ overtime victory in Oklahoma City accomplished both goals which helped Denver’s odds of getting into the playoffs grow exponentially.

Here is how the Nuggets’ tiebreaker breakdown looks compared to other teams competing with Denver for a playoff spot.

Tie Breakers

With the Western Conference’s seeds 4-10 all within three games of each other, it is really anyone bet on who ends up seeded where. That means there are five other teams in the playoff hunt within reach of the Nuggets even if some are more fanciful than realistic. That leaves the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, and Los Angeles Clippers the direct competition that stands in the way of a Nuggets’ playoff berth.

Regardless — because of the lack of space between each team — tiebreakers could become the reason that the Nuggets are either watching the playoffs from home or are traveling for their first playoff series since the 2012-13 season.

San Antonio Spurs – incomplete

The Nuggets and Spurs have tied the head to head match-ups with two wins a piece out of the four games. Being that the head to head match-ups are tied, the tiebreaker falls to conference record because the Nuggets and Spurs are not in the same division.

The Spurs are currently 26-20 in the West with all six of their remaining games being against Western Conference opponents. The six teams in the West remaining on San Antonio’s schedule have a winning percentage of 55.1 percent.

The Nuggets are 25-23 in the West with four games remaining against Western Conference opponents. The four teams in the West remaining on Denver’s schedule have a winning percentage of 57.2 percent.

The Nuggets have a tougher remaining conference schedule and they play two fewer games than the Spurs, who already have a three-loss lead on the Nuggets.

Advantage: Spurs

Minnesota Timberwolves – incomplete

The Nuggets currently trail the Timberwolves 0-2 in head to head meetings. While there are still two match-ups to come before the season ends, it will take a minor miracle for the Nuggets to lock up the tiebreaker over Minnesota. Here is the laundry list of feats that Denver would need to pull off to steal away the tiebreaker:

  1. Denver needs to defeat Minnesota in both remaining meetings on April 5th, and on April 11th to end the regular season.
  2. Denver needs to win all remaining division games of which there are three. Denver has to play Minnesota twice more as well as the Portland Trail Blazers.
  3. Minnesota has to lose their final three divisional games; once to the Jazz on April Fools Day and twice to the Nuggets.

If the Nuggets can manage to pull that off, then they will be able to secure the tiebreaker, but they need help from the Jazz in addition to Denver winning their final three divisional games.

While the odds are likely that the Timberwolves will lock up the tiebreaker, that does not mean they get the advantage. Denver either needs to win-out or only sustain one loss if they hope to make the playoffs. If they lose any more games than that, the tiebreaker will be meaningless anyway.

Advantage: Neither

Utah Jazz – incomplete

The Jazz and Nuggets have split their four head to head match-ups this season with both teams grabbing two wins, but sustaining two losses. Being that both Denver and Utah are in the Northwest Division, the tiebreaker is decided by each teams’ record against division opponents.

The Nuggets are 7-6 in the Northwest division and still have three divisional games left to play — against the Timberwolves twice and against the Trail Blazers once.

The Jazz are 6-8 in the Northwest Division and still have two divisional games left to play — against the Timberwolves on April 1st and against the Trail Blazers on April 11th to finish the season.

Denver needs to just win two divisional games to lock up the tiebreaker against the Jazz. While that sounds all fine and dandy, there is a catch with Utah; if the Nuggets and Jazz end up with identical division records, the tiebreaker falls back to each teams’ record against the Western Conference, which the Jazz have already locked up.

Similar to the Nuggets’ tiebreaker scenario with the Wolves, Denver essentially has to win the games that would lock up the tiebreaker just to stay alive in the playoff race. Because Denver has a two-loss lead over the Jazz, they get the advantage.

Advantage: Nuggets

Oklahoma City Thunder – Denver owns the tiebreaker

The Nuggets own the tiebreaker over the Thunder by beating them 3-1 in the four head to head match-ups.

New Orleans Pelicans – Denver owns the tiebreaker

The Nuggets own the tiebreaker over the Pelicans by going 2-1 against them in the three head to head match-ups.

Los Angeles Clippers – Los Angeles owns the tiebreaker

The Clippers own the tiebreaker over the Nuggets by going 2-0 against them in their two head to head match-ups so far.

The Nuggets still play the Clippers once more this year on April 7th, but that game will have no impact on the tiebreaker.

Remaining Schedule

Denver has six games remaining in the regular season, but each and every one of those six games is going to have the feel and vibe of a playoff atmosphere.

Every single one of the final six games is against an opponent either in the playoffs and vying for seeding or a team battling to re-enter the playoff race altogether. Denver also faces three divisional opponents in what are expected to be high-stakes games that will ultimately decide the fate of a plethora of different playoff tiebreakers. Luckily, only two of the final six games are on the road with the other four games coming in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets’ path to the playoffs resumes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Easter Sunday back at the Pepsi Center after the Nuggets’ grueling seven-game road trip for a game that kicks off a three-game homestand for the Nuggets. That homestand will have the Nuggets’ facing off against the Eastern Conference playoff contending Bucks and Indiana Pacers before the Timberwolves come to town for a pivotal battle between divisional opponents.

After the three-game homestand, the Nuggets fly out to Los Angeles for what could be a season-defining game. The Clippers outright own the tiebreaker over the Nuggets which forces the Nuggets to finish a full game ahead of them in the standings. As of the morning of March 31st, Denver and the Clippers both currently have a record 41-35 which means the easiest way for the Nuggets to separate from the Clippers would to beat them in Los Angeles.

If the Nuggets can get that far throughout the schedule, they will control their own destiny in the final two games. All they would need to do is defeat the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in Denver and then travel to Minnesota to beat the Timberwolves on the final day of the regular season and walk out with a win.

When analyzing the other seven teams competing with the Nuggets for the final five playoff spots in the Western Conference — as well as what their projected wins are according to — a clearer picture emerges as to the chances the Nuggets have on making the playoffs.

*As of the morning of March 31st*

First and foremost, the Thunder should feel quite a bit of pressure. The Nuggets’ 126-125 overtime win in Oklahoma City gave the Nuggets the head to head tiebreaker over the Thunder and, with the toughest remaining schedule of the seven teams competing for the final five playoff spots, the Thunder could be the team most likely to be caught by the Nuggets. If the Nuggets finish the season 5-1 in their final six games, the Thunder would have to go 2-3 or worse in their final five games for the Nuggets to catch them. If the Nuggets win-out, they would force the Thunder to win at least three of their final five games.

The other team in the danger zone is the New Orleans Pelicans. Yes, their remaining schedule is quite easy compared to other playoff-hopeful teams, but they play three of their six remaining games on the road and still have a one final back to back to overcome that starts in Phoenix on April 6th and finishes the following day in Golden State. Considering how hard the Pelicans have had to ride both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday with DeMarcus Cousins going down for the year, there is a fatigue factor that could come into play. If Denver goes 5-1 while the Pelicans finish the year 3-3, the Nuggets would advance by virtue of the tiebreaker. If Denver wins out, the Pelicans would have to go 5-1 or better in their final six games to stave off the Nuggets.

The final team that could be in play for the Nuggets to catch are the Utah Jazz. Of course, the Nuggets would need to keep winning division games to secure the tiebreaker over the Jazz, but if Denver loses more than one game in their final six, they can metaphorically kiss their playoff hopes goodbye anyway. If the Nuggets do secure the tiebreaker over the Jazz,  Utah would need to go 3-3 in their final six games for the Nuggets to catch them as long as the Nuggets finish the season 5-1. If the Nuggets win all six of their games left, the Jazz would need to answer with five wins of their own to keep the Nuggets at bay.

The one thing Denver has going for them is that if they win all of their final six games, they will make the playoffs regardless of what happens with the rest of the Western Conference playoff hopefuls. Denver would accumulate enough tiebreakers — thanks to division wins — to officially secure their first playoff berth since 2012-13. The Nuggets still control their own playoff destiny.

Not all is lost. While the Nuggets will need to suddenly become the best version of themselves, they can still make a realistic run at the playoffs. They will have to win essentially every home game and divisional match-up for the rest of the year to do so, but this Nuggets’ squad has proven time and time again that they can beat almost any team in the NBA on any given night.

“I think a lot of people have given up on us,” Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone told Gina Mizell of the Denver Post after beating the Thunder on their own floor. “Who cares? It’s all about those guys in that locker room. They still believe.”