Note: I’ll be handing off the reins to the previews for the next four games. I expect everyone to treat the other writers with the same respect you show me.
The Nuggets lost on Wednesday night at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was an inexcusable loss against a lottery team for a Nuggets squad that is desperately trying to hold onto the sixth seed in the Western Conference. In front of them lie the red-hot Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks, both on 3-game winning streaks and 9-1 and 8-2 over their last ten games, respectively. That has to be frustrating for a Denver team that is also 8-2 over their last ten. Behind them lies a Minnesota squad that no one understands, but behind that and just 3.5 games back are the LA Clippers, who are suddenly proving that objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.
Denver has reason to be hopeful. Both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. appear primed to return before the playoffs, which would give Denver a huge boost. In fact, if those two return and Kawhi Leonard finishes processing his latest update, the first round of the West playoffs could be incredibly intriguing. Imagine a first round series between a suddenly healthy Denver facing off against a Utah team that MUST get to the Western Conference Finals this year or risk blowing up their team. Or Denver against Dallas, who has not escaped the first round since their title run over a decade ago. Denver vs. the young Memphis Grizzlies would be incredibly fun. Sign me up for 7 games of Nikola Jokic’s overall brilliance and Ja Morant’s ability to inspire shock and awe every time he decides to do...anything, really.
Anyway, Denver is coming off a humiliating loss in which none of their starters registered a better +/- than -21. Against OKC. Even Houston beat OKC handily three times.
So it’s not too much of a surprise that Denver is favored by 13.5 tonight. The folks over at DraftKings probably expect a pissed off Nuggets group ready to destroy a Houston team that has been finding ways to rest players and lose games down the stretch.
And don’t look now, but the Rockets are now second in the lottery race. Orlando is the lone team in Houston’s way, and their remaining schedule is technically a smidge more difficult than Houston’s.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest