Nuggets well positioned to seize first round home court advantage

The Denver Nuggets recently clinched a berth in the 2013 NBA playoffs, meaning that they will soon be making their tenth consecutive postseason appearance. And while this is a very impressive streak, what they’ve managed to do less often is finish the regular season with a good enough record to secure home court advantage in the first round.

In fact, as every Nuggets fan under the sun knows well, they have only made it out of the first round once during this stretch, in 2009 against the New Orleans Hornets. That was in one of the only two seasons over the last decade in which Denver held home court advantage entering the playoffs. The other followed in 2010 when the Nuggets got Fesenko’d by the Utah Jazz in a disappointing early exit.

As we approach the end of the 2012-13 season, the Nuggets control their own destiny in landing another first round home court advantage. Here are the current two through six seed standings in the Western Conference.

With the number of remaining games rapidly dwindling, it is highly implausible (though still mathematically possible) that any of the Nuggets, Clippers or Grizzlies will finish above or below the three, four and five seeds.This is essentially a three-way race.

The Nuggets briefly flirted with the third seed a couple times recently, but the Clippers now hold that position with one less loss than Denver (and the tiebreaker to boot). This means that the Nuggets can only hope for the Clippers to lose several games if they are to overtake them for the third seed again.

But even if the Clippers remain in third, the Nuggets are in the driver’s seat when it comes to home court advantage. They have nine games remaining, and due to the fact that they have an equal number of losses as Memphis, but hold the tiebreaker, their magic number for clinching home court in the first round is also nine (any combination of Nuggets wins and Grizzlies losses).

But how likely is it that this magic number will be reached? Here’s a breakdown of the three teams’ remaining schedules.

These schedules are not too disparate at this point, but the Grizzlies do appear to be in the toughest position. They have the most road games, the most games against winning teams, and the most games overall. The fact that they have two more games left than Denver not only means they’ll have less time to rest, but it also means they’ll have two additional chances to lose.

But the even better news for the Nuggets is how home-heavy their closing stretch is, with six of their nine remaining games at the Pepsi Center. Denver is tied with the Miami Heat for a truly dominant home record of 32-3 (.914), and if they can continue defending their home court at that clip, that in itself might be enough to secure the fourth seed.

Unfortunately, Ty Lawson’s injury could throw a wrench into the works. The Nuggets must find ways to win without him while he’s out, something they were unable to do in their last two games.

Returning to the magic number of nine, a 7-2 season close out is within reach for the Nuggets. If they can pull that off, the Grizzlies would have to finish 10-1 to pass Denver by. But even a 6-3 finish, which seems feasible even taking Lawson’s injury into account, would keep Memphis at arm’s length unless they managed to pull off a 9-2 close out.

The odds are that things will stay as they currently stand. And if that’s the case, that’s some great news for the Nuggets, whose ability to defend their home court has been the best in the West.

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Chris

    Encouraging. But without Ty at full strength, I don’t see us even winning six of the remaining nine. He’s the motor; he makes all the other parts work the way they’re supposed to.

    Here’s hoping he’s back in action, tonight or shortly thereafter.

  • Italianstallion

    Ty out with plantar fasciatis. Might want to revise the article lol. Deron Williams is gonna p-p-pown Andre miller tonight unfortunately. Time to get Fournier minutes at point in case ty is out for the start of the playoffs

  • Bryan

    How do the Clippers hold the tiebreaker over Denver when Denver won the season series?

    • Ckwizard

      Clippers are a division champion, Nuggets will not be… Tie breaker is given to division champion over a non division winner fiirst before the results of he head to head match up are taken into account.

  • KW

    With Ty out, get ready for Deja vu all over again.

    Slipping down in the standings, losing in the first round (after a spirited fight) and GK has his excuse all locked up.

    See you all next year.

  • A.D.

    The season is still salvageable. Depending on how long it takes Ty to get to 100%. We are already a TEAM full of players that know about ball-movement.
    I think we take a risk (every decision at this point is one) and lean more on McGee/Faried, using Igoudala to fill the gaps. All three of which are capable of doing more than their assigned to

  • theo

    Yeah, I agree we’re one and done with Ty hobbled. PF injuries are tough to heal and play through, but especially for a super explosive point guard. A big could play through it more easily, but if Ty isn’t super quick he really isn’t effective. Potentially wonderful season done in by a plantar injury at the very end of the season? Incredibly frustrating.

    My question is, what kind of medical personnel do the Nugs have? I’ve been wondering how a heel bruise could have lingered so long unless it was a severe bone bruise, in which case he would have been sitting for a couple of weeks at least. How could they have missed this for ten days–and wasted that potential time for healing–when the main symptom of a plantar tear is severe heal pain? Get a new med staff, Nugs. Mistake could well cost us a first round series win.

  • amlowlife

    Well, it was a most enjoyable season while it lasted. One of my favorites…up ’til now.

    Damn, I was sooooo looking forward to the post-season. My lucky Boykins jersey was locked and loaded. Hey, what’s Earl doing these days…

    • B-O-B

      I have seen Earl playing hoop and working out at Greenwood Athletic Club a few times. Not sure what he’s up to.

  • AaronCAPS

    We’ll finish off the season 4-5 from here if Ty stays out.

    Andre Miller is probably one if the worst starting PG’s when filling in for Ty, it also doesn’t help that our original starts are use to touching the ball a lot & going full speed. But with Andre you might touch the ball once per posistion, & will play very very slow paced.

    I hats being so nagative but with Lawson & Stone out, we have no such thing Aa fast paced anymore. Sorry to point it out like that, but we all know its most likely gonna be the truth.

  • Joel

    For what it’s worth, I did compose this post before Lawson’s plantar fascia injury was made public. I think I pulled the trigger on this right about at the same time it was announced.

    Needless to say, if the injury is severe that does change the outlook. But I’m going to leave the post as is just based on the standings and schedule analysis.

  • codizzle

    This is a great analysis.

    • Aurress20

      So… what do we have to do to get the 3 seed? Just hope for the Clippers to lose a lot? Do we control our own destiny in this regard at all?

      And since there is a lot of Andre Miller hateration on here, would Julyan Stone be a better option going forward? Meaning after this season.

      Could Masai pull a “Money Ball” move and take away Karl’s security blanket players and force the hand with a younger PG? At 6’5 or 6’6 and being only a sophomore player, its pretty apparent he has a longer future in the NBA that Andre Miller. Andre Miller is slowly becoming “the past” and the question becomes “Is Julyan the future?”… as far as our bench PG goes.

  • a_roth

    You know who I’d like to see in a Nuggets uniform next year? Michael Carter-Williams.

    I think he’d be a great compliment to Lawson coming off the bench. Probably won’t be around when the Nugs are picking though.

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