Nuggets Eyeing Grizzlies, No. 4 Spot?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Give the Denver Nuggets credit for being realists.

They’re not going to spend the next two months chasing the pipe dream of chewing up the San Antonio Spurs’ eight-game cushion and winning the Western Conference’s top spot in the playoff chase.

Instead of trying to do the impossible, the Nuggets have set their sights on the very realistic goal of passing up the Memphis Grizzlies for the fourth spot behind the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers. Nuggets coach George Karl is the man responsible for this pragmatic approach. His team has won five straight games and is in a great groove right now.

But Karl knows that this is not the time for great (and generally supersized expectations). As Karl explained to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, focusing on the team directly in front of them is the best plan of action for his team:

The Nuggets’ goal is singular and sincere. With 22 games left, they want to surpass Memphis in the standings and grab the fourth playoff seed in the Western Conference.

It’s likely that Nuggets vs. Grizzlies will be the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the West’s first round of the postseason, but home-court advantage is up for grabs.

After their 108-82 victory Sunday at Orlando, the fourth-place Grizzlies are 39-19.

“I think it’s going to take at least 51 to 52 wins to get to No. 4,” said coach George Karl, whose Nuggets are 38-22 heading into Monday’s home game against Atlanta. “It might take more.

“But I’d probably take 52 and take our┬áchances. And I’d like the tiebreaker with Memphis. I’d take 52 and the tiebreaker.”

The Nuggets are aware of the Ides of March. Memphis comes to Denver for a March 15 matchup, the final regular-season meeting of the teams. Denver leads the season series 2-1.

The Nuggets, the NBA’s third-youngest team, have only nine more road games. They have 13 left at home, where they are 25-3.

Twelve of their 22 remaining games are against current playoff teams, the toughest stretch coming when Denver hosts the Carmelo Anthony-led New York Knicks on March 13 and the Grizzlies two days later, followed by road games against the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder on March 18 and 19.

“This team is not afraid to play the best teams. In fact, they like to play the best teams,” said Karl, whose Nuggets knocked off the Thunder 105-103 in a Friday thriller at the Pepsi Center. “I think the team is understanding that the playoffs aren’t that far away.

“Right now we’re in a good place to make another step. We need to tighten our defense up and not have mental lapses and continue to grow.”

This is a refreshing dose of sensibility at a time of year when players, coaches, teams and their fans are big on making bold proclamations about what they have in store for the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.

The Nuggets have figured out exactly who and what they are and play like it on a nightly basis. If they catch you at their home, the Pepsi Center, they’ll run you out of the building.

So it should surprise no one that Karl has his team locked in on earning home-court advantage for a first-round series.

Their prospects in that first-round series between the No. 4 and No. 5 seed changes dramatically if they are have (or don’t have) possession of home court.


28 Comments

  1. drjones23 says:

    Sigh. I’m a HUGE Denver fan (Colorado native), and love watching them play ball. I think they can take the number 4 spot; IF they do, they MIGHT be able to edge the Grizzlies out in the first round, but will probably get creamed in the second round. However, while they have guys who are capable of taking over games, they don’t have anyone who can do it 90% of the time. They have maybe 3 guys who can do it (Lawson, Igoudala, and Gallinari); the three of them doing it 10% of the time still means they have someone who can do it 30% of the time… not enough to get past a playoff team in a best of 7 series. The only reason I think they can beat Memphis is because Memphis has the same problem, so home court will decide that series.

    But it will be GREAT experience for next year; if Iggy opts out and gets a longer contract from Masai, then the Nuggets will have the time to grow organically (not unlike the Thunder have) and be lean and mean over the next several years.

    And, if they could only get JaVale to mature a little…

  2. Grizz Fan says:

    The Nuggets want beat the grizzlies if they see them in the playoffs. But they are a good team. They can shoot for that 4th spot but the grizzlies trying to take the 3 spot watch out clippers.

  3. Ballierz says:

    top five all time best basketball players
    1 Lebron James
    2MJ
    3 Kobe

  4. Ballierz says:

    I dont know what this is about

  5. Artboi says:

    Be careful for what you wish for, because Denver is getting ahead of themselves. Sure you own a 2-1 series lead on Memphis, but the biggest difference between then and NOW is Grizzlies arent relying on Rudy anymore and getting burned on his end because of his inability to guard. Nuggets wanna run up and down, not against Memphis you wont LOL. Talk is cheap Denver.

    • NUGGS says:

      We won’t have to speculate for long. OKC also thought that they could not only keep up with the nuggets, but would be able to shut them down. I believe OKC held their three prior opponents to around 70-80 points, and then played the Nuggets last week and gave up over 100… while defense is important, I think Denver won’t have a problem outscoring the Grizzlies.

  6. googergieger says:

    Meh, come playoff time, refs are going to make sure OKC wins again. Heck majority of their wins against good teams have been with the refs. Even their two losses via Denver had the refs helping them out something fierce so they wouldn’t get blown out.

    But yeah Denver is always going to have about double the paint points of any team they face. In the playoffs? I bet you they hardly ever have the free throw attempts that add up to their paint points.

  7. The Nuggets r doing realy good with Lawson,Faried & Igoudala I think tht they will have a very good opertuniey to make it into the playoffs :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  8. adam says:

    No way. Its san antonio, okc, clippers…

  9. Amir says:

    no way that the nuggets can beat a team like the grizzlies!!!
    i actually like denver and they are fun to watch, but I dont understand why would anyone wanna meet the grizzlies in the first round…honestly id take my chances with clippers or san antonio instead!
    3 teams that nobody wants to play in the western conference are grizzlies, okc and lakers (for the sake of argument that they actually do make the playoffs this year lol)

  10. Gillsy says:

    The two most dangerous things about the Nuggets is their depth and their coach. George Karl has been around a long time.

  11. Sonics 4 Life says:

    Nuggets play entertaining ball. It would be nice to see them advance through the WC playoffs and knock off a couple contenders.

  12. adam says:

    Check out how teams bully Ty Lawson… They do almost everything but throw a punch. He never gets the calls that say a Russell cry baby Westbrook or even a Kevin Durant does. They are breathe calls compared to the physicality the nuggets receive on a nightly basis.. Tell me why it is that the clippers are doing so well.. (they get alot of calls that most people do not).. Chris Paul is good but only made an al-star because the NBA babies him!

  13. adam says:

    Well lets just say that without the NBA’s help Ie..(commissioner) the nuggets need that to make the final push. The nuggets are a mid-market team and do not have the following that will net the NBA the profits it expects from the playoffs and mainly the Championship. This is why they say that you need a star to make it. Check out the footage and you will see that the refs (NBA) will never let a mid-market team make it far.. There are a few outliers but overall that is why the nuggets will never make it all the way!

  14. QuestionMark says:

    The Nuggets are a pretty good team, they just don’t have a player that can consistently knock down clutch shots, which is needed in the Playoffs, but they average the most points in the paint, which will be helpful come Playoff time, and they play good defense. However I don’t think they have enough to beat the Spurs or OKC in a 7 game series.

  15. Roi says:

    I am not a prophet, so I cannot tell what will happend in the postseason, but I do know two things. first, the Nuggets are FUN to watch. they play exciting basketball. I enjoy them a lot.
    second, players in this this team are really unselfish. it adds to my pleasure in watching them, but it also makes the team more solid and less prone to disruptions that are due to injuries. I think it makes them a strong contender.
    I am sure they have a lot of room to grow

  16. dattebayo says:

    At the beginning of thee season, I had Denver picked as the 3rd seed and the Lakers as the 6th seed, claiming the Nuggets would beat the Lakers in 6 this time. Laker fans laughed at me, but they are not laughing anymore :D

  17. W/E says:

    The nuggets are DANGEROUS, this team will make a big noise in the playoffs they got a balanced team and good coach, i dont think anyone wants his team to face the Nuggets come playoff time.

  18. Nash fan says:

    Nuggets can WIN IT ALL!

  19. NYLakers says:

    Absolutely no chance at the championship. Does it matter out in the first round or the second round?

  20. Artxuleta Yo says:

    Maybe they’ll make past the first round this time. https://vimeo.com/7761485

  21. Igoudala says:

    Nuggets will not make it to the second round of the playoffsssssssss

  22. Not on my watch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)