ESPN Stats and info wrote up a small preview post for the Nuggets vs. Celtics clash tonight and in it was some interesting, and honestly for the Nuggets and their fans, frightening information.
“Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.”
We all know that the Nuggets are better at home than on the road but that drop off in winning percentage is staggering, and is the reason that it is hard to see the Nuggets advancing much farther than into the second round this year. Without a top 2 seed the Nuggets won’t have home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, and realistically looking at the schedule it seems impossible that they catch the Thunder or Spurs for that second seed. That means a team that only wins 38 percent of the time they play on the road would have to win a game, or more likely multiple games on the road to move on to the Western Conference finals. Now take into account that the 38 percent number includes games against the worst team in the league that the playoffs won’t, and things become even bleaker.
On the bright side the problems with this year’s team seems fixable. As the post says the Nuggets offensive and defensive efficiency are both much better at home than on the road, about 7 points better offensively and 6 points better defensively. The offensive drop makes sense. The Nuggets don’t shoot the ball well from the outside, and at an unfamiliar arena with travel the night before a team’s shooting can take a hit; that just happens. Defensively things can partially be explained by teams coming into Denver and struggling with the altitude and shooting but a 6 point difference is an awful lot, and has to at least partially come down to some effort. With the way the Nuggets have defended at times this year the fix seems there, but it is easier said than done. Bring more defensive intensity.
In the end how far the Nuggets will go is all dependent on how they play on the road and judging by recent history that doesn’t bode well for them. But unlike some years in the past where the team relied more on offensive firepower to carry them through struggles, this Nuggets team has a chance to change some of those problems around with a greater defensive intensity. What they choose to do will determine their success.