Win over Spurs boosts Nuggets’ chances of clinching 3rd seed

In the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets greatly strengthened their position with their big Wednesday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

This cleared the most difficult remaining game on their schedule, and reduced their magic number (combination of own wins and opponent losses) with respect to both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers to three. With four games remaining, Denver can lose one game and still clinch third even if Memphis and L.A. win out (though since they play each other, at least one of them can’t).

Here is a side-by-side look at the remaining schedules of the three teams competing for that third seed which carries the benefits of both home court advantage in the first round and a matchup with the No. 6 seed:

And here are the current standings:

As you can see, the Clippers are two, and the Grizzlies one game back behind the Nuggets. This puts them on equal footing vis-a-vis the Nuggets, as L.A. holds the tiebreaker over Denver, who therefore must finish ahead of them to top them in the standings, while Denver holds it over Memphis, who they’ll top if their records are even.

One bonus luxury for the Nuggets is the fact that the Grizzlies and Clippers must play each other, which effectively means that Denver’s magic number is actually two against one of them or the other. We just don’t know which team yet.

When it comes to the schedules themselves, the Nuggets ostensibly have the easiest of the three teams. By the parameter of opponent winning percentage, they face the weakest set of teams and face no more winning teams in the remainder of the regular season. Memphis has the toughest schedule in this regard, with three of their remaining four games against winning teams.

Like Denver, the Clippers also play mostly weaker opponents, but also play three of their last four games on the road, and have two back-to-backs while Denver and Memphis each have just one.

For the Nuggets, it really boils down to this: They’re now in firm control of their own destiny, and if they beat all the teams they should beat in their last four games — which frankly, even with Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari out, is all of them — they’ll own the third seed and home court advantage in the first round, and play either the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors rather than the Griz or the Clips.

When Gallo went down I proposed on Twitter that it might be time for the Nuggets to change their motto from “Dig in” to “Dig deep.” To the delight and relief of Nuggets fans they have indeed been doing just that, and if they can keep it up, they’ll be in a great position to make some serious noise in the playoffs despite their setbacks.

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Making history? Be sure to tune into Denver’s game against the Mavericks tonight. As most of you are aware, the Nuggets are on the brink of setting a new franchise record of 55 wins. If they can find their way to beating Dallas on the road, you’ll not only see them inch that much closer to clinching the No. 3 seed, you’ll be paying witness to an unprecedented accomplishment in Denver Nuggets history. Don’t miss it.

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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.
  • Charliemyboy

    I keep thinking, ‘if they could just win this one’, and they do. Against Dallas, they one by one… now they are on Dallas court… does Dallas have any reason to be motivated? Is Lawson back? Will Denver play well the whole game? Who will have the big night based on matchups?

  • SeanM

    I’ve been thinking about Coach of the Year and feel like it will be an absolute travesty if George Karl doesn’t win it after all the Nuggets accomplished this year. There’s a lot of noise about Spoelstra this year. But when you have the best player in the league, two top 20 players, and a litany of good veterans who signed with your team to specifically chase a title, I don’t feel like the degree of difficulty is nearly as high as it is with a team like the Nuggets. George Karl absolutely deserves that award this year.

    • amlowlife

      I agree–Karl should get serious COTY consideration.

      On another board someone made a good case about how important Karl is to the team. We’ve seen what happened to the Nuggs when Karl went down with his throat cancer–the team fell apart. I think it would crash this year, too, if GK were to suddenly disappear. His “teamness” is a concoction of Mad Scientist Karl and, for better or worse, everyone has thrown their lot in with that system.

      What if, god forbid, something happened to Spo (who is getting a lot of COTY chatter)? Can you see the Heat falling apart? They Heat look to be on cruise control and just keep doin’ what they do, which is probably enough to win another championship. Managing superstars is definitely a skill but that just doesn’t seem like a team that needs a lot of actual coaching.

      At this point, Robin Williams could probably coach them to another set of rings (and we’ve seen how he coaches from that Snickers commercial).

      • heykyleinsf

        I was one of the most vitriolic critics of GK early in the year.

        I slowly warmed with the success…
        Until I saw the assistant coaches and Javale McGee
        trying to hold him back from charging the officals
        vs Dallas.

        Totally fell back in love right then and there.

  • Will M

    I do believe that the Nuggets in fact have the tiebreaker over LA, not the other way around as you stated. Denver took the season series from LA, 2-1, giving them the tiebreak.

    • klaboria

      The clips have the tie-breaker by virtue of being a Division winner. That guarantees them a top 4 seed.

      That however does not guarantee them home court. If the 5 seed has a better record at season end the 5 seed has home court.

      But technically the Clippers have the tie-breaker over the Nuggets

      • magster

        and by better record, it needs to be better, not a tie with our owning head to head.

        Notwithstanding our having a better head to head record against Clips, we have to be one game better as a 5th seed against them to have HCA.

        What a stupid system. Divisions mean nothing. They should get rid of conferences for playoff seeding too.

    • Ban Johnson

      Nope — Clipper have the actual tiebreaker, and that includes home court advantage, not just seeding. (Assuming a tie.)
      (But the team with the better record has home court advantage, independent of seeding.)

      It’s nonsensical, but that’s the way it works: division winner trumps head-to-head trumps conference record.

      • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

        Yeah, Ban you are correct. If (horror of horrors) the standings ended up with Memphis at 57 wins, and Denver and the Clips at 56 wins apiece, the Nuggets would be in the 5th seed, and the Clippers would have the home court advantage in their 4/5 matchup.

        Denver needs to tie the Grizz (or better) *and* get one or more wins more than LAC to lock down the 3rd seed.

    • PlainsNugFan

      Here’s the tie breaker rule

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Playoffs

  • Nugget

    National people are WAY underestimating the powerful Nuggets in the playoffs. They 30-6 in their last 36 games and during that stretch, they are 6-1 vs. the top 4 teams in the West (Thunder, Spurs, Grizz and Clipps) destroying them by an average of 6.7 pts/game.

  • dynamo.joe

    Apropos of nothing.

    http://www.thenbageek.com/players/compare?utf8=%E2%9C%93&player_ids%5B%5D=129&player_ids%5B%5D=38&player_ids%5B%5D=73&player_ids%5B%5D=320&player_ids%5B%5D=368

    You know what the difference between Kosta and some of the best centers in the league is? Foul calls. He gets fouls called on him and doesn’t get fouls called for him.

    Otherwise, the differences between him and Noah and Tyson Chandler are pretty negligible.

    Anyway 2 of those guys are only 24 and will get better.

    • Nugget

      Agreed! Koufos may be the games most underrated big man. But the array of athletic, fast, strong big men that the Nuggets can throw at the Thunder is why I think they can beat them in a series. Perkins and Collison have NO CHANCE against the likes of Koufos, Faried, McGee etc. Then you factor in that the Nuggets now have wing defense to burn in Iggy, Chandler and Brewer…they can match up all day long with KD and Westbrook. I don’t even think the loss of Gallinari hurts them one bit against the Thunder in fact it may help them. Gallinari has no business guarding KD.

      • googergieger

        Gallo is the best defender at his position this year. He guards Durant better than anyone else in this league. He is as big as Durant, he is stronger, and he moves his feet quicker. Durant gets bail out calls to make him appear unstoppable, but look at the head to heads. Durant has needed about thirty shots to get thirty points and if you take away the ref treatment Durant gets ALL THE TIME, Gallo pretty much shut him down.

        Yes Gallo is a white Italian. No he isn’t a bad defender. He is actually and factually a great one.

        • alessandro

          +1000 goog
          but
          i follow gallo carrer since he was 15th yrs
          and he lacks one thing:
          hunger.
          I saw all tha games he played in nba
          i saw him landing in denver
          I’m a nuggets supporter now
          best place for him
          he ll get back stronger and
          most important
          angrier.

          • googergieger

            I’d say more he is a nice guy than lacking hunger. I mean kid is clearly competitive. Ask any Nugget player and they’ll tell you whatever game it is, he’ll try to win. But I think he is too nice sometimes. Which I mean you don’t want people in Denver that will ruin morale but sometimes you need someone to be an ahole. I mean just demand the ball. Just get on the refs. Don’t let your team mail it in. Like you said, get angry. I mean we’ve seen him get angry in games this year and when he does, good things happen.

        • Ckwizard

          Dang Googergieger must be tough to keep arguing about how good Gallo actually is especially on Defense but please keep it up because in this aspect you are 100% right. I can’t figure it out? Is it unawareness, lack of understanding, or blatant racism I mean racism might not be the right word but looking at a “white” player as inferior simply cause he is white? Whatever the reason people can’t grasp how effective Gallo was against the Top Two scorers in the league this year and with your statisticall evidence they still don’t and you would have to think they “watched” the games and they still don’t believe.

          Gallo is a good defender to say anything else is to exclude every aspect of reality and argue based on INDIVIDUAL PREJUDICE!

  • Ban Johnson

    Spurs just waived Stephen Jackson. (Probably not for basketball or health reasons — probably insubordination or disruptiveness of some kind)

    Anyway, Spurs are looking pretty vulnerable in that 2nd round should it come to that…since it’s not clear when Ginobili will be back 100%. They’re really young and inexperienced on the wings without those guys. It’s no accident Brewer and Chandler WENT OFF against them.

    Anything could happen, but 3rd seed is looking really favorable right now.

  • Kyle

    3rd seed means we draw the winner of 2-7. Right now the spurs or rockets.

    The rockets match up very well against the spurs. So I can see them having an outside shot at taking down the spurs.

    Then Kobe declares they are beating the one seed…how would y’all love home court through the playoffs.

    Not saying its GOING to happen. But man the stars are aligned as good as they can be for that TO happen.

    Here’s hoping for outside chances

    Go nugs

  • Thomas

    Go Nuggets!

    If we don’t win it all this year, I would suggest going all out and meeting with Mark Cuban and trying to convince him to trade Dirk to us so that he has a shot at another title before retiring. Give him Mcgee, Gallo, Miller, KK, anyone but Ty, AI, Faried, Chandler, Brewer, Fours or JHam…

    Ty, AI, Faried/Chandler, Dirk, KK, Brewer, Fours, JHam – we would have a very good shot at winning it all.

    Hoping it can happen this year, but thinking about how to get even better…

    • Ckwizard

      Do you hate Nuggets fans? Seriously Dirk? For both Gallo and McGee. Dirk would make he Nugets no longer fun to watch, no thugs like the Iverson/Martin teams they were at least fun to watch, No more running like the current teams, and More Ball isolation basketball so less “Teamness”…

      If you think Dirk is a good fit for the Nuggets what do you like about the team? Isn’t he the opposite of everything positive about the Nuggets, The Nuggets rebound well , Dirk doesn’t… the Nuggets play team basketball lots of assists, Dirk needs an assist up and down the court… Nuggets like points in the paint also called slam dunks, Dirk like fade away jump shots… Oh and I guess if you like flopping we got Brewer and Gallo but you are right Dirk is a Better Flopper so that would be a beneficial trade we could be a cross between San Antonio and Dallas the Nugget floppers….

      • googergieger

        Yup, need players that can play in our system and that are good locker room presences and coachable. I.E. Josh Smith could thrive here but he doesn’t want to get better, wants a max contract, and is a known bad locker room guy.

      • Thomas

        A HOF who averages close to 26PPG and 10 boards in the post-season. Clutch when in matters, not afraid of Lebron – beat him once in the finals.

        You can’t even put Gallo in the same sentence as Dirk. Mcgee is trade bait – fools gold and a terrible contract.

        Josh Smith is not clutch. His postseason avgs are worst than Gallo – which are pretty bad…

        Windows of opportunity for winning titles are few and far between – particularly considering that Lebron is not even 30 and Durant is young. Right now, we are the Suns and the Sonics of the 90s, very good but inferior to one team that can beat everyone on a 7 game series.

        There are few star players that could tilt the balance a bit in our favor against the Heat (assuming we are Finals material). The only ones in my view that may be available are Dirk or KG (another heatbreak year and he may change his mind about staying green).

        Other than those two, I’d take Al Jefferson over Smith.

        • googergieger

          How do any of those guys fit on our team? Jefferson and Dirk are just awful defenders and Garnett is old, hurt, and slow.

          • Thomas

            If we could pull it off, Gallo for Dirk, we are obviously a much better team.

            Jefferson, Garnett and Dirk are close to the top of the league in efficiency ratings. They are not more efficient because of who they play with (unlike Gallo and Mcgee), they bring efficiency to their 5-man units.

            Garnett is phenomenal still. He would be incredible paired with AI, Chandler, Faried and Brewer, with Ty running the show. I honestly think that we could win it all with him on board, despite the fact that he is old and slower.

            • googergieger

              Oh so you actually aren’t going to argue for your crazy trade ideas? Alright then. Well flimmy flam floom floom flommy to you too sir.

              • Thomas

                I get it, you post comments all day and your only contribution is something like I love Gallo, I love Mcgee, I love Gallo, I love Mcgee.

                Board troll

              • googergieger

                How do Jefferson, Garnett, or Dirk fit on this team? How is sacrificing our future for guys that wouldn’t even make us a better team now any sort of smart? Seriously think before you, well just think period. Do the world wonders.

  • googergieger

    Today is the type of game that makes it really hard to stick with the no Karl bashing thing. Refs didn’t help matters tonight but still.

    • Thomas

      Fully agree. Playoffs are coming – A time when GKs weaknesses get fully eloited by average coaches.

  • Thomas

    Down by 3 with 2 seconds left and Gk has one 3pt shooter on the floor…my oh my, that was terrible even for GK standards…