With a home win over the New York Knicks tonight the Denver Nuggets can clinch a playoff spot in March for the first time in 21 seasons. However, it will not mean an end to the suspense of the race for playoff positioning.
In order for the Nuggets to afford a slip up against either Utah, the Lakers or Portland in any of their three difficult contests on the schedule they need to sweep the five remaining games against lesser opponents. That means taking care of business tonight against the Knicks.
Looking at the big picture the Knicks have gone from a playoff contender at the end of December, sporting a 21-25 record, to a league also ran after losing 25 of their last 33 games and eight of their last nine. Narrowing the view a bit the Knicks did Denver a big favor by knocking off the New Orleans Hornets last Friday and last night showed some spunk in Utah. After falling behind by 24 early in the third quarter New York roared back to actually take a 94-93 lead in the middle of the fourth quarter before falling by eight, 112-104.
Aside from their undisputable edge in talent the Nuggets also should have an edge in energy. Denver has had two days off following their dismantling of the Warriors where the Knicks are wrapping up a three game road trip and playing their fourth game in five days.
Previous Matchups: Game 31 – Den 117 NYK 110
Take this with you: In Mike D’Antoni’s fist season with the Knicks New York is second in the league in pace while the Nuggets vacillate between sixth and seventh. However, the Nuggets play significantly faster at home than they do on the road. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks can keep pace with the Nuggets for 48 minutes in their fourth game in five nights.