While chaos unfolds in the eastern conference for seeding, the west is just about set, all except for two teams fighting it out for the eighth seed. The Trail Blazers have five more games left, three of which are against above .500 teams. The Nuggets have six more opportunities to add a win to their record while three of those six will come against above .500 teams.
The Blazers have the tiebreaker between the two teams, but what they won’t have is Jusuf Nurkic. Recently acquired from none other than the Nuggets, Nurkic has been a huge boost for the Blazers.
Without Nurkic the Blazers have struggled against dominant big men. They were bullied by Karl Anthony-Towns against the Timberwolves. They could definitely be in trouble with all of their final games coming against elite bigs: surging Rudy Gobert twice, Towns again, former Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
The Nuggets are a game and a half back but still have a good chance to sneak into the playoffs. They don’t control their destiny completely, but enough that if they can win out they should be able to make the cut.
Until their most recent win against the Heat, they had lost three in a row. At the time that was their chance to secure a playoff spot and that spot seemed gone after that stretch. Two of those losses came to James Harden and the Rockets who they will face again soon. The Nuggets will also have to try to contain his MVP contender in Russell Westbrook and twice take on the twin towers of Cousins and Davis. Not an easy road at all.
There’s no time to complain though after putting themselves in this position. They’ve found themselves with another opening but will have to capitalize on it this time. As long as the take care of what they can control there is much reason for them to still have playoff hopes.