The 2012 NBA playoffs are still a few months away, but with the All-Star Break over the Denver Nuggets are focused on trying to get every next win and secure a spot in the Western Conference bracket. The Nuggets join the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz as quality teams chasing the current No. 8 seed Portland Trail Blazers and No. 7 seed Memphis Grizzlies for those final places in the playoff picture. After storming out to an impressive 15-7 record to start the season, Denver suffered injuries to Nene, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, and slowly faded to an 18-17 mark at the break. The second half will have to be much more consistent if they hope to land a spot in the postseason tournament.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller broke down the Western Conference race on Tuesday, and created some measure of strength of schedule going down the stretch. Games against the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and any road games against Western Conference teams currently in the playoffs are referred to as "AAAHH games." Home games against teams in the West race are called "UMMM games." Road games against the No. 3 through No. 7 seeds in the East (Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks) are "YEESH games." All remaining contests are "YEAH games." Here is what Ziller had to say about the Nuggets:
Current record: 18-17
Games behind No. 8: 0.5
AAAHH games remaining: 10
UMMM games remaining: 6
YEESH games remaining: 1
YEAH games remaining: 14
Denver is now in the No. 9 spot, but a favorable schedule should give the Nuggets an advantage over the Blazers. Health for Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson would help even more, and a re-signed Wilson Chandler would be nice.