Nuggets fans woke up Monday morning feeling the worst, not only did their team lose five of their last six games, they were knocked out of the No. 2 spot and fell all the way to No. 5, and on top of that there are reports that Kenyon Martin and George Karl may not be back this year.
All-in-all not the ideal news that anybody in the Nuggets organization wanted to hear. Especially now that they are falling further and further behind the leaders in the playoff race. Denver still has a shot at the No. 2 spot, but it just got tougher Tuesday after the Mavericks earned an overtime victory over the Grizzlies, the Suns extending their winning streak to nine-games and Jazz extending their lead in the division to a game-and-a-half. However, the race isn’t as bad as it looks now, because the Nuggets could easily win their final seven games. However, more likely they will win 5 of 7 games and end the season with 53 wins (one less than the year before).
Denver has five games against playoff teams left, but the best news for the squad is only two road games. Lets just say that the Nuggets are a far more dominant team at home than they are on the road. The downside is that they do have two back-to-backs (facing Lakers at home and going to Phoenix on the second day of the back-to-back to close out the season). Denver does have a 12-8 record against their final opponents. In a four-horse race, the magic number for the Nuggets to win the No. 2 spot is six.
Dallas does have four home games to close out the season, but they also have to face Orlando, who will be out for revenge tonight on the second night of back-to-back after an overtime game against Memphis. And they have a back-to-back next weekend facing Portland, who is 3-0 against the Mavs, first and than Sacramento the next night. The Mavericks have an 11-6 record against their final opponents.
The Jazz have a difficult schedule, with four road games and three games against playoff games. Not to mention two back-to-backs. Utah does have a 9-8 record against their final foes, but they also face the Lakers who they are 1-2 against and the Thunder who are 3-0 against the Jazz.
The Suns don’t exactly have a cake-walk either, four road games and three home games (two against playoff teams). They do have two tough back-to-back, (Detroit the first night and than a tough game against the Bucks). They also close out the season with a back-to-back with two of the most important game of the season. They host the Nuggets and than they go to Utah to face the Jazz in the season finale. They do have a 10-5 record against their final opponents.
- Denver (48-27)- For the best chance at winning the 2-spot the Nuggets need to go 7-0. WINS: Portland, LA Clippers, San Antonio, Memphis; WINNABLE: At Oklahoma City; TOUGHEST: Lakers, At Phoenix. 54-28/53-29/52-30
- Dallas (50-25)- The Mavericks need to lose four of their final seven games for the Nuggets to have a shot. The Magic game tonight is logical, so are away games at Portland and Sacramento and at least a home games against Memphis and San Antonio. WINS: Oklahoma City, Memphis, At LA Clippers, San Antonio: WINNABLE: Orlando, At Sacramento; TOUGHEST: At Portland. 55-27/54-28
- Utah (50-26)- Currently the Jazz are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Nuggets and since they own the tiebreaker they need Utah to at least drop three of their final six. Games at the Lakers and a back-to-back against New Orleans and home against the Thunder could be chalked up in the loss column. WINNABLE: At Golden State, At New Orleans, Phoenix, At Houston; TOUGHEST: At LA Lakers, Oklahoma City. 54-28/53-29
- Phoenix (49-26) – The Suns also need to drop three of their final games. Road games at Utah, Milwaukee and Oklahoma CIty will be tough for the aging Suns. WINS: At Detroit, Houston. WINNABLE: San Antonio, Denver, At Oklahoma City. TOUGHEST: At Milwaukee and At Utah.