After Home Blitz, Nuggets Rising in West


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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Who’s the league’s hottest team either side of San Antonio? Don’t look now, but it’s the Denver Nuggets.

With a grueling road schedule to open the first two months of the season, some observers predicted a hard charge up the standings once the schedule turned in Denver’s favor, which it did starting Jan. 1 with 15 of 18 games to be played in the Mile-High City.

On cue, the sky’s been the limit for George Karl‘s bunch, which is riding an eight-game win streak — while averaging a whopping 115.0 ppg — as part of a larger 15-3 run since New Year’s Day. They’ve won 13 of those 15 home games and have gone 2-1 on the road.

On Dec. 29, the Nuggets had dropped to 17-15 after an ugly 82-71 loss at Memphis. At that point, Denver had played a discombobulating 23 road games, stood seventh in the West and were just one game ahead of — believe it or not — the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. was 15-15, the last time that outfit would sniff .500.

Now the high-octane, well-balanced Nuggets are 32-18 and have pushed past Houston, Golden State and Memphis to slide into the No. 4 position in the West, a hugely significant spot for a team that’s 22-3 at home. The top four teams in each conference earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Only the smooth-sailing Spurs have fewer home losses (22-2) among teams in both conferences, and no team has more home wins (San Antonio and Oklahoma City each also have 22).

Of course, Karl’s previous seven seasons in Denver have been marked by first-round disappointments six times and twice the Nuggets have wasted a top-four finish by not getting out of the conference quarterfinals (2006 and 2010). Only the 2008-09 Nuggets, who finished second in the West, made it out, with Carmelo Anthony finally taking the team all the way to the West finals before losing to the Lakers.

So home-court advantage isn’t a free pass into the second round, but would the run-and-gun Nuggets rather play four of seven games in the high altitude or, say, in the madhouse that is Golden State’s Oracle Arena?

So now the schedule evens out. Denver has played 25 games at home and 25 on the road (10-15), and next up is a four-game Eastern Conference road swing, including two back-to-backs: Cleveland (Saturday) and Boston (Sunday), followed by Toronto (Tuesday) and Brooklyn (Wednesday).

The Nuggets will look for their two pace-setters to continue their brilliant play that has led to the team’s longest win streak of the season. Neither point guard Ty Lawson nor forward Danilo Gallinari will be in Houston for the All-Star Game, but had they put up these kind of numbers earlier, both might have finally made the squad.

Gallinari is averaging 19.9 ppg during the eight-game win streak and is shooting the 3-ball at a 44.7-percent clip to boost his previously slumping season percentage to 37.3.

Lawson over the last eight games is averaging 18.9 points — more than three points better than his season average — and 8.1 assists — pushing his season average to a career-high 7.0 apg. After posting four double-doubles through the first 42 games, Lawson has two in the last three games and four of his six on the season have come in the last 15 games.

Add Kenneth Faried‘s (12.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) relentless motor, a deep roster with six players scoring in double figures, and a seventh, Wilson Chandler, back from injury and averaging 9.7 ppg, the Nuggets have a team that can simply gas opponents.

Especially on their home floor.

33 Comments

  1. big cat says:

    if the wolves had a healthy Rubio , K love , budinger , and Brandon roy all year , they would be a top three team In the west right now ,

  2. googergieger says:

    Bad enough Denver has had the worst schedule in twenty years, and had to face Boston on a back to back where they were rested up big time. But now the refs have decided to just hand Boston this game. Denver attacks the paint more than anyone in the league. They have done so tonight. And yet 19 free throw attempts for Boston and six for Denver?!

    Explain that to me. Paint a picture of how that makes any logical sense. I really and truly hope the league is investigated before it is all said and done. Bad enough Denver has a coach who will play his favorite players despite how bad they are playing, and play Faried at center despite having three seven footers. Bad enough Denver continues to have a schedule with a ton of schedule losses in the mix. But they continue to play teams that clearly get the whistle despite them not even being close to as aggressive as Denver is!

    Yes I know, this probably won’t be published. Even so, at least I can get it off my chest a little.

  3. Nuggets are way better than lakers,rockets,jazz,blazers,t-wolves,hell i think they are better than my bulls well at least on offense!

  4. Nba2k says:

    Rockets r goin to be a dangerous team in the playoffs with the big three of Lin, harden,and parsons

  5. rn says:

    The nugets will finish 4 in the reguler Seson but thevwill lose in the first round of the playoffs to memphis
    We should not forget memphis

  6. Cammmm says:

    Galo has been the closer of late, he has made a big shot deep into the fourth in almost every game of our current streaking play. If we can keep up this level of defense we can make a run! OKC and SA are still the top dogs but they are gonna have to watch out this year. Nuggies are balling!

  7. Blampe says:

    Yay for the Nuggets. Great feeling to see them win! And i like how almost everybody had above 10 points today against Cleveland, I like their gamestyle a lot. And looks like they finally won’t be knocked-out by LAL in first round of playoffs!

  8. jondubb says:

    The Nuggets are playing great basketball right now but anyone who has been a fan of the team for awhile (like myself) know that they are notorious for letting up towards the end of the season once they’ve clinched a playoff spot. That reason plus the fact that they are somewhat inexperienced makes it tough for me to believe that they will make it out of the first round. I’m not saying they can’t do it but they need keep their foot on the gas and ride some momentum going into the playoffs. If they can stay consistent and continue to play the way we all know they’re capable of playing then anything is possible come playoff time

  9. nba4life says:

    dont care what nobody says, but hands down the denver nuggets got the second best small forward in the west (gallinari). and i think they can beat the spurs coz of their athelticism and young age (remember memphis and spurs two years ago. I see the same scenario right here).
    i think denver vs golden state first round will be veerrrrrrry fun. (two unexperienced teams that play just like each other with shooters and run-n-gun style)
    as much as i want to see nuggets n heat in the final,it will be okc in the finals once again. they are more experienced, more mature and got a go to superstar (kd) unlike the denver.
    sorry denver, but take this year as a learning experience.

  10. Jay says:

    I doubt if the Nuggets would beat Okc. Even though I consider Gallo the 2nd best SF in the West, he would not have a chance against KD. But if Gallo becomes a closer before the playoffs, I think they can match well with Okc.

  11. fedizzle says:

    West is still the tougher division, apart from the Knicks there isn’t anyone to challenge the Heat. (Maybe Bulls if Rose gets up to speed, or Pacers if they can get hot)… It’s tough for me to believe the Nuggets are a Finals contender, but I do think they will be a tough out for anyone. At the end of the day it will be OKC vs MIA in a rematch

  12. Jarett Suazo says:

    The main thing the Nuggets need is playoff experience. They looked timid in those first few games against the Lakers last year. Hopefully, this year they can come into the playoffs playing at full speed and not waste 2 games wetting their feet. With that experience last year behind them, and the way their playing, look for some noise.

  13. Conor 2L says:

    I love Denver and i love the Nuggets, represent boy boy!

  14. krespino says:

    Actually the Nuggets’ roster is better and more balanced than the Clippers. And Karl is a superb coach. Denver should be the team to put up a surprise. Looking forward to the playoffs.

  15. Karlo Garcia says:

    Time will tell if the Nuggets r for real this time. Surprising no all star selected.

  16. CSmooth99 says:

    I’ve been saying that Denver will be one of the best teams in the West for the past few years. Every since they let go of Carmelo. Even though he’s my favorite player, he just would commit to playing “D” in Denver. With all the pieces they acquired from New York, and the addition of Javel McGee, they are a force now. The only thing that will keep Denver from making it to the Western Conference Finals is if they don’t raise their free throw percentage and take better control of the ball.

  17. googergieger says:

    “Neither point guard Ty Lawson nor forward Danilo Gallinari will be in Houston for the All-Star Game, but had they put up these kind of numbers earlier, both might have finally made the squad.”

    Doubt it. League only cares about five teams. Shame. Might be the third seed in the west heading into the all star break and not one effin all star. That is a bigger snub than Steph Curry not making it. At least the sixth seed in the west got an all star. If there are injuries, Denver really does deserve an all star. Heck Lawson in the skills challenge? Any Denver player in the shooting stars challenge?! Have to settle for Faried in the rising stars and dunk contest, I guess. SMH.

  18. mcgee>howard says:

    javale needs to start using his brain

  19. And1 says:

    If Denver plays like the ‘ol Pistons who beat superstar laden teams then they can win it all. But play-offs may trigger nerves and George Karl has a monkey on his back. Still they are dark horses.

  20. ko0kie says:

    oohh the west is really interesting this year… I can imagine any of the top 4 teams coming out of the west.. even golden state and memphis.. it all depends on the playoff matchups.

  21. Blind Lemon Pye says:

    Denver is now at the level that people predicted them being at season’s start. But they’re not stopping, I’ll say they’re going to sweep the eastern conference trip and finish at the allstar break strong. also keep in mind that Clippers, OKC, and Spurs, the teams ahead of them, have all been beaten by Denver on their home floor this season.

  22. ajpotpot says:

    maybe because, they’re still questions about who will be the finisher during crunch time, and we still can’t see some consistencies on their front court aside from faried, unless koufos or mozgov improves and or mcgee will not miss his easy shots

  23. swag91 says:

    NO LAUGHING…. Deep respect man. Nuggets could make loud noise in the playoffs this year, not sure if they can quite handle the heat, but they have the talent and age to run with the KING and wade. But the nuggets have blossomed with danillo gallanari… hes becoming the go to guy. I think denver has the potential to make it to the finals but not sure if they can win it all… time will tell

  24. steppx says:

    people laughed when I said the one team that could knock out OKC or SA was denver. I still stand by that. Its rubbish (but popular rubbish) to say teams cant win without a super star (whatever that actually is) but denver has Iguodala…who is close enough. Iggy’s defense changes games……it took him a while to figure out his role on this team but during the last month he has played brilliant defense and altered team’s perimeter game. Lawson was tentative at the start of the year but is back to attack mode and Faried is simply a force inside. The manimal is getting some props, but not enough. He also changes games and his defense has improved to a place where he regularly stops bigger fours consistently. Plus denver is deep. THey have beaten OKC……..and are lethal at home. I dont see why they cant come out of the west. Obviously OKC is the team to beat. The spurs are a threat and if they pick up another big, they are even tougher………but they lack the athleticism of denver and the thunder. My money is on denver. Go ahead and laugh.

    • josh says:

      No laughter. You make a good point. I still think the Clippers could do some damage as well. Their side runs deep bench wise and if Chris Paul is firing watch out! I still think the Beast from the East is Miami. NY may cause an upset but no one else is close. The West is likely to throw up a surprise or two in the playoffs this year.

    • Mark says:

      With all much respect for what the Denver Nuggets has done so far, I feel like it will be a rematch between the Spurs and Thunder in the WCF. Still, I never laugh at Denver because George Karl always does a commendable job coaching the team.

    • K jo says:

      I love watching Iggy play just watching his reaction to plays that have nothing to do with him but made a teammate shine shows such a great attitude. He makes me want to go out and shoot some hoops myself.

    • PC says:

      Good point. The Nuggets is a force to be reckon with. But one thing is for sure, Regular season is different than the playoffs. The atmosphere changes, it’s completely different. Each game weighs more, which results in more pressure. Can the Nuggets handle the pressure? Will they prevail or will they choke? Only time can time and we’ll see. But no, don’t get me wrong, nothing against them; they are doing phenomenal. But can they handle the big stages in crunch time? And most commonly, experience usually gets you over the hump. It’s not always the case, but usually. Sometimes Superstars are the main difference in the waning seconds of a tie game. sometimes it’s not. only time will tell.

      • Jason says:

        If the Lakers were playing like the Nuggets right now, people would say their going to the finals. We must re- member this team has mature players, that are relentless, team oriented, and no egos. I’m telling everybody, watch out for Denver.

    • Chris says:

      I know it’s only a game, but in myCareer mode in NBA 2K13, the Nuggets swept OKC in the Western Conference Finals to make it into the Finals.

    • nuggets says:

      nuggets look good… its gonna be hard to stop them