The Denver Nuggets’ road to the 2014-15 NBA Playoffs just got a little tougher with the release of this year’s schedule. We all know that health is priority No. 1 for this year’s squad, but even assuming 100 percent health, the Nuggets’ playoff dreams may be little more than just that, a dream.
It was very difficult to find much good about how the Nuggets’ schedule has been laid out by the NBA. Seriously, I tried and tried to find the positives, but all I could come up with is that October and November should set them up for a fast start. That could create a sense of confidence and allow for some sustained momentum.
There is only one back-to-back during that stretch, and it is a home/away, with the away game being played in Phoenix, a very short trip. I think it is reasonable to believe they could jump out to a 10-6 record.
I have December being the Nuggets’ worst month in terms of wins and losses. They will be lucky to get out of this month with a .500 record. They have five back-to-backs during this stretch, with two of them coming with both games on the road. They have a tough east coast road trip early on, facing the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors.
February and March both present extended east coast road trips, the toughest of which comes in late March when they play the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic in an eight-day stretch. March really only becomes manageable due to the fact that they have some very winnable home games against Atlanta, the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.
The stretch run in April has them facing the world champion San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers twice, a much improved Dallas Mavericks team and they end the year in Oakland taking on the Golden State Warriors.
The Nuggets play in five nationally televised games, on ESPN or TNT, which puts them about smack dab in the middle relevant to the other teams in the NBA.
They have 21 back-to-back games (7 away/away, 6 home/away, 6 away/home, 1 home/home), which is six more than they played last season.
The majority of their games are the standard 7:00 pm MT start, but 11 games start at 5pm MT or earlier and seven games start at 8:00 pm MT or later.
I went through their schedule twice to determine an estimated win/loss total. The first time, I just did a gut-feel, not taking into account any of the complexities of the schedule (i.e. start time, back-to-backs,etc.), and I had the Nuggets going 49-33.
The second time I went through the schedule, I took into account many of the extraneous factors mentioned above, and I had them going 47-35.
Assuming a split of those two, it would put them at 48-34, which would most likely leave them on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Last year’s No. 8 seeded Mavericks finished 49-33 to put it into perspective.
The Nuggets could be in contention up until the very end, but they will be battling the likes of the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and Golden State for a final playoff position. It certainly doesn’t help that their schedule finishes much more difficult than it starts, and it certainly doesn’t help that they play in the absolutely brutal Western Conference.
Bottom line is that this year’s Nuggets team should show a marked improvement in terms of overall wins, but they will find themselves short of where they were two short seasons ago. That’s not exactly the progress Nuggets fans should be excited over.