The Denver Nuggets started off a seven game road trip in terrible form tonight against the Utah Jazz. In the first half it seemed to be referees helping the Jazz. But it was clearly the Denver Nuggets helping the Jazz in the second half. This was evident after Arron Afflalo was ejected for an elbow to the neck of Jazz guard Gordon Hayward. The ejection took place in the midst of a 18-3 run by the Jazz. When the fourth quarter started the Nuggets were down by 18 and never recovered. Final was Jazz 121, Nuggets 102.
Tonights game was important due to the fact if the Nuggets lost, they would slip from 7th to 9th in the West. This road trip is central if the Nuggets hope to stay in contention for a decent seed in the playoffs. Ending up as the 8th seed would be a disaster and result in an early exit versus the Thunder. Or worse yet, a poor performance throughout the road trip could mean elimination before the playoffs even begin. As of tonight, only 2½ games separated the 4th spot from the 10th spot in the west. After tonight’s game the Nuggets are now in 9th with 18 games left.
The good news is that most teams in the west are feeling the effect of a condensed season and tough schedule. With recent additions like Wilson Chandler and JaVale McGee, the Nuggets still have 18 games to develop the chemistry needed to make a run and get healthy. Therefore, with a respectable road trip the Nuggets will have a very good chance to make the playoffs. Maybe even as high as a 5th seed.