In the sixteen winter sports seasons since the Avalanche arrived in Colorado from Quebec, Denver has never been shut out of the playoffs in both of its major league winter sports.
In five of those seasons, both the Nuggets and Avs made it. In eight others, from 1996 through 2003, the Avs made the playoffs and the Nuggets did not. In the other three — 2007, 2009 and 2011 — the Nuggets made it and the Avs did not.
In short, with the Avalanche having missed the NHL playoffs this season for the fourth time in six years and the Nuggets facing a daunting final ten games in their battle to make the NBA postseason, there’s a chance Denver could see no spring playoffs for the first time since it acquired teams in all four major league sports.
Even after Saturday night’s flat performance at Golden State, where they lost by fifteen, the Nuggets remain in the eight-team Western Conference playoff bracket, seeded eighth going into today’s games with a record of 30-26. Houston and Dallas, in sixth and seventh, are a half game ahead of them. Phoenix and Utah, seeded ninth and tenth, are one game behind them.
The Nuggets are 7-10 this season against the teams remaining on their schedule. Chris Sheridan, who covered the NBA for years with the Associated Press and now runs his own website, ranked them eighteenth in his weekly power rankings today, tenth in the West, and had this to say about their playoff hopes:
“Went a decent 4-5 in stretch of playing eight of nine on road, but the “5” included losses to Raptors, Hornets and Warriors. Last 10 are half on the road, half at home. Pair of “must-wins” to start week, home against Golden State and Minnesota. If they lose one of those two, I think they’re missing the playoffs. Rest of schedule is too tough.”
Asked about his team’s prospects, coach George Karl had this to say: “If we put 37 or 38 wins on the board and someone beats us out, I think we can at least look in the mirror and say we’ve done our job. It is crazy, and I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen.”
The Nuggets would have to go 7-3 or 8-2 over the final ten to put 37 or 38 wins on the board. Considering they are 5-5 over their last ten and 11-9 over the last twenty, that would be a significant improvement down the stretch.
Danilo Gallinari, considered their best player by many of their fans, has missed 23 of the past 31 games with injuries, the most recent a broken left thumb that kept him out of the past ten. He’s expected back for the final stretch. The team is 11-12 without him this season, 19-14 with him.
Here’s the remaining schedule, with the Nuggets’ record against the opponent this season in parenthesis:
April 9: v. Golden State (0-2)
April 11: v. Minnesota (1-1)
April 13: at L.A. Lakers (1-2)
April 15: v. Houston (1-1)
April 16: at Houston (1-1)
April 18: v. L.A. Clippers (1-2)
April 21: at Phoenix (2-0)
April 22: v. Orlando (1-0)
April 25: at Oklahoma City (0-2)
April 26: at Minnesota (1-1)
If the Nuggets come up short, it will be the first time during the Kroenke ownership era that both of the family’s Denver major league teams miss the playoffs. It’s also likely to increase the criticism that E. Stanley Kroenke now cares more about his St. Louis football team and English soccer team than his Denver holdings.