The Denver Nugget’s hold on the eighth seed is slowly beginning to loosen. Can they reassert themselves Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The Nuggets are fresh off a heart-breaking loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets, but they can’t let that get in their way of their playoff hopes.
Denver was only seconds within defeating the third-seeded Rockets, only James Harden had other plans. He made the game-winning lay-up with only 2.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, then the game-saving steal off the Nuggets in-bound pass to end the night. Harden went on to put up 39 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds, further pushing his MVP hopes.
The Nuggets put a great fight though, led by fantastic efforts by Gary Harris, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic, who combined for 74 points, 22 rebounds, 20 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks, while shooting an incredible 58.1 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc.
You can read more about this game in a post by Mike Wilson, right here.
The loss brings Denver’s record to 33-37, thereby giving them only a one-game lead over Portland Trail Blazers for control over the eighth seed. The Nuggets’ current odds at making the playoffs now stand at 42.1 percent according to ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index. That puts them behind Portland, who has a 55.9 percent odds of making the postseason.
Denver could greatly improve their chances of seeing postseason action Wednesday night, in their match-up against and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs currently hold control of the top seed in the East, but the Celtics are slowly creeping up on their lead. That means this could be a very tough game for the Nuggets, knowing Cleveland will have added motivation to win. Tough, but not unwinnable.
Denver has maintained one of the best offensive teams in the NBA post-All-Star weekend, and they only need a little spark to kick it into hyper drive. That spark is Jamal Murray.
According to NBA.com, Murray’s had Offensive Rating of 115.2 and a Defensive Rating of 107.3, leading to a Net Rating of 7.7 since the break. But in the only game he’s started since All-Star weekend, those numbers drastically change. His OFFRTG climbs to 123.0 and his DEFRTG falls to 96.8, with a new Net Rating of 26.2. That’s absolutely absurd.
Yes, one game is an incredibly small sample-size to just assume Murray is the answer for the Nuggets’ playoff hopes. But you have to admit, it’s pretty tempting to start him Wednesday night, right? Especially considering he’d match-up against Kyrie Irving, who’s not exactly a defensive stud. (Kyrie has an OFFRTG of 112.2 since All-Star weekend… so, yeah.)
This game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 PM Mountain Time at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Hopefully the Nuggets can cop a win tonight and further their control over the eighth seed in the West. But this one could generally go either way, so we’ll all just have to wait and see.