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.