The Denver Nuggets will resume their season today, going up against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center. It’ll hopefully be the start of a strong push for a Nuggets team hoping to avoid the play in. But how does Denver usually play after the break?
Early in the Denver team’s tenure, they were known for getting off to slow starts. Since Nikola Jokic took steps towards being an All-NBA first team center, solidifying himself as one of the league’s elite, Denver has been pretty stable throughout the entire season.
In the 2020-21 season, the Denver Nuggets had an exciting finish to the season. After trading for Aaron Gordon, everything seemed to be clicking and the Nuggets were playing like championship contenders. Unfortunately, Jamal Murray tore his ACL and the season was thrown off course.
But even despite the injury, Denver finished the season with a 26-10 record. The post-All-Star push was spurred on by the soon-to-be MVP Jokic and Denver held onto a top-four seed in the West.
The season prior, in the COVID-shortened season, the Nuggets didn’t have enough of a sample size to really make a push. Going 8-10 in the games after the break but before the league-wide shutdown, Denver had banked enough wins before the break (38-17 record) to keep its top-four seed.
The bubble was obviously a different beast and Denver played some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen.
In the 2018-19 season, the first time this team made a real playoff push, Denver played alright after the All-Star break. After starting the season with a 39-18 record (one of the first times this roster had played well out of the gates), the Nuggets finished the season 15-10.
Denver wasn’t the same force in the final stretch of the season but they did enough to secure the second spot in the West behind the powerhouse Golden State Warriors.
In Denver’s first trip to the playoffs with this roster, they were eliminated in the second round at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. I still remember Rodney Hood taking and making some incredible shots down the end of that series… a memory I’d prefer to forget.
The season prior, in the 2017-18 season, the Denver Nuggets finished with a 14-10 record. Their total of 46 wins on the season was just one less than it needed to make the playoffs after falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the final game of the season.
What can we expect for the remainder of the season for the Denver Nuggets?
If the past is any indicator of the future (and it usually is…), the Nuggets will finish the season with a positive record.
Despite the injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, this roster has found a formula for success and with the injuries and trades to the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks ahead of them, Denver might be able to push for a top-four seed.
Denver has the seventh-easiest schedule for the remainder of the season according to Tankathon. The Nuggets get to play the Kings three times, the Oklahoma City Thunder twice, and the tanking Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets once.
Additionally, with games still remaining against the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies, there’s a chance that those teams are taking it easy given the stability of the top of the West’s seeding.
If the Nuggets do find a way to climb in the standings and Jokic maintains his MVP-level of play, we could be in for a very interesting race against Joel Embiid.
As Michael Malone tells Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post after the break:
"“The biggest challenge is coming out of the break you see a lot of sloppy basketball. You challenge your guys to do something to stay in shape and get a ball in their hands. But tomorrow night throughout the NBA, you’re going to see some beginning-of-the-season type of basketball. We’ve got to find a way to try and stay away from that as best we can.”"
It’s slightly concerning to hear Malone hedge the team’s effort before they can even play a game but the Nuggets have always found a way to maintain success after the break. There’s no reason why this season would be any different.
If anything, it’s a greater sample size for Bryn Forbes, Bones Hyland, and DeMarcus Cousins to get integrated into Malone’s system.