What did the Spurs win do for the Nuggets?

With their decisive victory over the tanking Portland Trail Blazers the San Antonio Spurs have locked in the top seed in the Western Conference for the second straight year.  With it they have may have solidified the Denver Nuggets’ hold on the sixth seed.

Now that the Spurs have clinched, the Oklahoma City Thunder are now locked into the second seed.  Now that their pursuit of home court advantage in the West has ended in failure logic dictates the number one goal for the Thunder should be to avoid injuries over their final two games.  The last thing the Thunder want is for one of their key players to get an inadvertent elbow to the head like Kevin Love, or an “advertant” elbow to the head like James Harden.

Looking back to last season, in a meaningless game to close out the season Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played, but they were on the court for only 23 and 21 minutes respectively despite the game going to OT.  I think the Nuggets can expect the same thing from the Thunder in what will be their final game of the season on Wednesday.

If the Thunder do in fact play to win against Denver, they will be sending a very direct message.  They want Denver in the first round instead of Dallas and what an intriguing message that would be.

The Nuggets are in the driver’s seat for the sixth seed needing either wins over both the playing-for-nothing Thunder and the Love-less Wolves, or a Mavs loss in Atlanta along with one win in their final two games.

However, in a way the Mavs are in a position to pick who they play.   Whether the Thunder play to beat the Nuggets or not, the Mavs can “choose” the Thunder as their opponent by resting their aging stars in their final game against the Hawks.  Depending on what happens in the Hawks and Celtics penultimate contests, the Hawks may be playing for home court advantage over the Celtics in their first round matchup on that final night versus Dallas.  Even if that final game is meaningless for the Hawks, I suspect the Mavs could pull out the loss if they so choose.

There are still a few variables to work out, but it does now look like the Nuggets are going to be facing off against the Lakers in the first round. It is a daunting task, but a much more welcome one than facing off with the Thunder.

  • dcyxc2004

    Good insight, thanks for breaking it down. Nice to know what to look for over this next week. I’m thinking a Nuggets-Lakers series would be mighty interesting, especially if Metta World War is suspended.

    Go Nuggs

  • GK4PREZ

    Scottie Brooks has stated that he doesn’t believe in tanking games/resting players, so their guys will play, but for how long is the mystery.

    • DH

      Do you know if he said this before or after the Harden injury? I would think it would make him think twice about playing Durant and Westbrook much, if at all.

      • DH

        An article on espn.com today just answered my question for me…

        “Even with nothing to gain in the West standings, Brooks said he will “definitely” play his normal starters this week but he may reduce their playing time slightly.”

  • GK4PREZ

    There is something else to consider for the Nuggets/Thunder game, KD is just .05 ppg behind Kobe for the scoring title and this is their last game of the regular season. Will it become another Skywalker/Iceman closing to the season where each team fed the ball to these guys all night long? This was the game that Thompson scored his 73 points in, and the Iceman went for 63. The date was 4/9/78. The Iceman wound up as the seasons scoring leader and finished with an average that was .07 ppg more than the Skywalker.

    The Lakers final game is against the Kings the following night, so Kobe has a good chance of putting up some big numbers if it turns out that he needs them.

    We will know a few minutes into the game if their game plan is to get KD the scoring title.

    • DH

      I might be naive, but I don’t see Durant as the type of player – or Brooks as the type of coach – to put aside team goals to concentrate on a personal goal. I would be surprised if they do anything out of the ordinary to get Durant the scoring title.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

      I considered the scoring race, but I agree with DH. I do not think KD cares about the scoring title. If KD had never won a scoring title, it might be different.

      The other thing that might factor in that I did not mention is the Thunder are in a race with Miami for home court advantage should they meet in the finals, but I do not think that is a major consideration either, for either team. Miami has been resting Bosh, LeBron recently sat out a game and Wade hurt his finger.

  • GK4PREZ

    you guys upgraded the log in feature, but there is still no edit option…lol

    The games that Thompson and Gervin played in on that night were not against each other. The Nuggets played the Pistons that night, and the Spurs played the New Orleans Jazz.

  • dnugs23

    No matter how old and banged up a team is no one wants to play the defending champs in the opening round especially when that team has a guy name dirk. For the thunder they definitely want to play us because of our lack of experience and the matchup problems we hve against them. Durant and Kobe both want to be the scoring king so look for a shooting spree from both guys. Hope that our bigs can match up with okc. I feel that is the key for us. Go Nugs!

  • magster

    I will reserve my preferences until we know more about the playoff availibility of Harden and Artest…

  • DH

    All things considered, things do seem to be breaking our way, somewhat. I don’t expect Durant and Westbrook to get their normal minutes against us. And even if they do, OKC probably won’t have Harden and they have nothing to play for right now. We should be able to beat them and claim the 6 seed with a win over the Wolves.

    Also, I expect at least a 5-game suspension for Artest (can’t call him Peace any more, right?). Although I don’t think that will make the difference between winning and losing a series against the Lakers, it sure doesn’t hurt. At least it swings one matchup advantage even further in our direction (assuming Gallo returns to form).

    • stevesf47

      Artest OWNS Gallo it seems. He’s never played well against Ronny. So it will help us stretch them out big time since i dont think Ebanks will have the same effect. I’m not sure if we can beat LA with their size advantage but i think it’ll be a good series, at least 6 games. GO NUGS!

    • j0gerity@msn.com

      Ron Artest will get a suspension and I hope that will help the Nuggets.

      I must say Harden deserves to be out a couple of games for starting a fight. He had no business being in Artest’s personal space and actually touching Ron after a play.

      • DH

        Sorry, I have to disagree. If you look at the replay (especially in slow motion), it seems to me that Harden is doing nothing more than preparing to guard the inbounds pass. He’s not even looking at MWP – he’s looking at the baseline. And he’s supposed to maintain contact with the guy he’s guarding. In other words, I’m convinced that all he’s doing is his job. But it’s just my opinion. What does everyone else think?

        • GK4PREZ

          He wasn’t on defense, Artest just dunked the ball, he was on offense and looking to get the inbound pass.

          • DH

            Wow, sorry. Still, he’s looking at the baseline for the inbounds pass from his teammate, then. It just doesn’t look to me like he was trying to instigate anything. Did you think he was looking for trouble, GK4PREZ? Just curious.

            • GK4PREZ

              No, I agreed with what you posted other than the offense/defense aspect of it. I wasn’t trying to be a Richard Cranium about it, so if you took it that way, then I apologize.

              • DH

                No worries. I’m glad you pointed it out.

  • jbmmlang

    In addition OKC will be on the 2nd of a back to back. That might influence playing time.

  • aaron@calvarybible.com

    The only way we give the Lakers a series is if GK will play some tall lineups. Like how about this: Lawson, Afflalo, Gallo, JaValle, K2 (or Mozzy).

    We simply must do that for 5-10 minutes in each game to get them off the offensives glass, and perhaps wear on Bynum a bit. If GK wants Al in there alot, then we have to play him at the 4 with McGee or the 3 with Gallo at the 4.

    Unfortunately, I think the Lakers kind of minimize Faried’s effectiveness. That’s bad for us, because he’s been great lately.

    But, I think Afflalo does some damage on Kobe since Kobe is banged up. Bynum will hurt us. But, if we can keep Bynum or Gasol under 20 points, I like our chances. If both of those guys are going off the whole series, we’re in trouble.

    Also, a wildcard is Matt Barnes. He killed us a week ago in LA, and he’ll be playing more now without Artest. So, I think Gallo and Brewer are going to have to toughen up against him, and probably match his point production. If Gallo or Brewer = Barnes, that’s great for us.

  • stevesf47

    update on OKC playing time per rotoworld…

    Coach Scott Brooks said he will “definitely” play his normal starters in the final two games of the season.
    The Thunder are locked into the West’s No. 2 seed, but they aren’t expected to rest anyone. Brooks said to expect mid-to-low 30s in minutes for guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It’s obviously more than enough to get them active in all formats.

  • DH

    From ESPN LA…

    “It’s a difficult time for the Lakers to lose World Peace. Reserve small forward Matt Barnes suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday’s win, and will not accompany the team for the regular-season finale. Second year forward Devin Ebanks, who played through the fourth quarter and both overtimes against the Thunder Sunday, dropped a weight on his left hand during a workout Tuesday, suffering bruises to his ring and middle fingers.”

    I never want to see any player get injured. But I’m not going to complain about these recent developments, either. After all the turmoil this season, it looks like the Nuggets might enter the playoffs in better shape than their opponent – if the opponent is LA and if Al’s knee holds up.

  • DH

    7-game suspension for MWP. Thought everyone would want to know.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    The Thunder played Westbrook 27 minutes and Durant 31, but both sat out the 4th. I expect the same tomorrow versus Denver, or even fewer minutes than they played tonight.

    In other news Atlanta will be playing for home court in the first round in their game vs Dallas so look for them to be more motivated than the Mavs. If Dallas loses, Denver only needs one win to clinch the 6th seed.

    The Clippers lost and I believe that sets the Lakers in 3rd.

    Looks like Nuggets/Lakers is almost a sure thing now.

    • phibuffa

      I would not say it is a sure thing, since OKC will still be playing tough, at home, last regular season game of the year. If the Nuggets are a legit team that can win in the playoffs, they need to prove it on the road tomorrow night. If they can close out the season with these two wins, I like their chances against LALA…assuming Karl gives his bigs a chance. I think Karl will. I heard him on the radio today, indicating to Irv Brown that an LA series would give his bigs a chance to prove how far they have come. Keep your fingers crossed. I really like the idea of a K2/McGeezie lineup going against Bynum/Gasol. Then, maybe Karl goes with Mozzy/Birdman coming off the bench. Or, more likely, he just goes with Mozzy and then the smalls. Still intriguing.

  • GK4PREZ

    I think the Mavs would probably prefer a first round series against OKC, the Lakers have had their number all season long.