Are the Nuggets Still Favorites for the Playoff Spot?
Are the Nuggets still the favorites in the race for the last playoff spot of the Western Conference? What are the 2017 NBA predictions? Obviously, not. Even though the Denver Nuggets (33 – 36) still have a one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers (32 – 37) in the race for the final playoff seed of the Western Conference, it seems like they are no longer the favorites for earning a postseason appearance.
On Monday morning, FiveThirtyEight has updated the playoff odds. This statistics-heavy site is currently giving the Blazers 71% odds to get the Western Conference’s playoff spot, while the Nuggets have just a 26% chance. As a reminder, just a week ago, the same website was giving the team from Denver a 57% chance to make it to the playoffs, whereas Portland’s boys received a 32% chance.
So, the question is: what has changed that much? How come did the Nuggets go from favorites to underdogs in the race for number 8 seed in the West Conference in just 7 days?
The explanation is rather simple. The Trail Blazers had three wins in a row, all against excellent teams: the Heat, Hawks and Spurs. Now, they’ll play their final 13 games in which only 4 matches will be against “favorites” or, more precisely, teams who have winning records. On the other hand, the Denver Nuggets haven’t been that bad either; the guys have also been playing some amazing basketball. Despite too many injuries, the Nuggets have won 7 of the last 10 matches. However, the closing stretch for their team is much harder; in fact, 6 of their final gamer are against teams having winning records.
These two teems are going to meet in Portland on the 28th of March. The chances are that, in the standings, the Denver Nuggets will be behind or tied with the Portland Trail Blazers. The team from Portland plays next 4 games against Milwaukee (34 – 35), Lakers (20 – 50), Minnesota (28 – 41), New York (27 – 42), whereas Denver meets Houston (48 – 22), Indiana (35 – 34), Cleveland (46 – 23) and New Orleans (39 – 41).
According to the analysis I have found on NBA.com, the Denver Nuggets seem to have the most difficult remaining schedule of all teams from the Western Conference. So, even if they do not let us down before the game against Portland’s Trail Blazers, they still have to play against Houston and Miami, as well as two matches against Oklahoma City.
Since the All-Star break, both the Blazers and the Nuggets have been among best basketball teams. Indeed, according to the statistics, they rank respectively seventh and fifth in net rating since the All Star break. Team from Denver is good because of the marginal improvement of the defense and its common offense, while the team from Portland has done it with great players such as Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic.
The Nuggets have not earned a playoff spot since 2013 and, if they want to do it this year, they will need to fight rather uphill battle.
In case you are the Nuggets fan, perhaps you hope for Nikola Jokic to help your team succeed in this mission. The story of the last game was the foul trouble the Joker had; the refs were rather unfair and Nikola Jokic was the biggest victim. If this guy plays more than 22 minutes, there are much higher chances the Denver Nuggets will win. Who knows, maybe against all the odds the Nuggets will make it; something like that happens all the time in sports.