With a big victory over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets officially squashed any chances that they’ll be considered a sleeper pick to go deep into the NBA playoffs.
For most analysts, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for the Nuggets to make an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, but with the team on a 13 game win streak and quickly moving past Los Angeles and Memphis in the standings, the only one way they can surprise anyone at this point is if they win the NBA Finals.
What makes the Nuggets so good is not just that they’re loaded with talent or have an incredible coach with tons of experience and a home court advantage in the Mile High City that is unlike any other in the NBA, evidence of which appears in their 30-3 home record, tied for best in the NBA with Miami. No, it’s not just all of that. Here is where Denver sits in the statistical rankings to further illustrate.
Points per game- 3rd 106.1 ppg.
Points in Paint per game-1st 58 ppg
Fastbreak Points per game-1st 19.8 ppg
Offensive Efficiency-4th 1.063
Shooting Percentage-4th 47.8%
Offensive Rebounds per game-1st 13.4 pg
Total Rebounds per game-1st 54.8 pg
Blocks per game-4th 6.6 pg
Assists per game-3rd 24.4 pg
The Nuggets are a George Karl team through and through. They play good defense and they rebound. After that, they play with a flow and a freedom that you can build a championship team around. In the past, Karl’s teams that had a shot to challenge for the title were built around stars, but this one is a real threat to the established powers not because of any one individual, but the best talent levels across the board.
The Nuggets have more balance in their squad than anyone and can kill opponents with bench production from guys like Andre Miller or JaVale McGee as easily as their starting lineup. With that sort of depth, they are a real threat to Spurs and Thunder for the West if they climb to the No. 3 seed, something they can come a step closer to without touching a ball tonight if Oklahoma City beats Memphis.
With 13 games remaining, the Nuggets have eight home games left and just five on the road. If that’s not enough to inspire confidence that they can secure at least the three seed, consider that the only games on their schedule that are significantly difficult are a pair of matchups against San Antonio on Mar. 27 and Apr. 10. Outside of that, they play a mere three other games against teams with records above .500.
If the Nuggets win the games that you would say they should, they’ll finish just under 60 wins and undoubtedly grab that No.3 seed and home court advantage in the first round. Right now, that would pit them against Oklahoma City in the Conference Semifinal, a team they showed they can be successful against last night.