Whether or not the Nuggets manipulated the seedings, the brackets are definitely in their favor.
It also turns out that the scenario we envisioned was not only likely but inevitable.
Denver lost to Portland then beat Minnesota to guarantee themselves the second seed.
Houston lost to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. That allowed Denver to have to win just one of their final two to lock up the second seed. It also left the window open for Portland to secure the third seed which they did with victories over the Nuggets and an absurd fourth-quarter comeback against the Sacramento Kings.
That left us with:
- Golden State
Nuggets coach Michael Malone angrily denies that his team engaged in any manipulation to encourage all of that to happen by resting three of his stars for the Portland game. It doesn’t much matter if it was intentional, all of the pieces fell into place for the Nuggets to avoid playing the Warriors or the Rockets in either of the first two rounds. Denver’s path to the Conference Finals is now the Spurs and the winner of a Portland/OKC series.
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Before we continue, a special bit of satisfaction that the Utah Jazz will now face the Houston Rockets (on the road) in the first round and if they pull off the miracle, they would get the Golden State Warriors (on the road) in the second round. Good luck, Jazz, couldn’t happen to a nicer organization.
The Spurs are not an easy out, any team with Pop at the helm is going to be good. San Antonio has a ton of young talent and LaMarcus Aldridge has always had success against the Nuggets. Add DeMar DeRozan to the list of Spurs assets but with an asterisk. DeRozan has struggled in the playoffs for much of his career, mostly in Toronto and seems not to be at his best under pressure.
Denver is the two-seed however and the combination of injury/rest/malaise over the last six weeks should see us fairly rested and hungry. We choose to believe that the disinterested look that the Nuggets had over the end of the season was boredom, they knew they were pretty locked-in for a while.
One place they were certainly locked-in was in their work against possible second-round opponents Portland and OKC. Denver was winning that final game in Portland away from a sweep of the season series, which they took 3-1. They did sweep the Thunder, winning all four contests. That’s 7-1, at home, where they had the best record in the NBA. It’d take a lot to convince me the Nuggets would struggle in a series with either team.
Another factor in Denver’s march to a title?