Analysis: A closer look at the Nuggets 2013-14 schedule

by Aaron Lopez

Balance has been restored.

After playing 22 of their first 32 games on the road last season, the Denver Nuggets will navigate a more traditional schedule as they begin a new era under coach Brian Shaw in 2013-14.

The Nuggets will open the season at Sacramento on Oct. 30 and then return to Denver for their Pepsi Center opener Nov. 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Of Denver’s first 32 games, 16 are at home and 16 are on the road.

Despite the early imbalance last season, the Nuggets survived the first two months and went on to win a team-record 57 games. They did so on the strength of a 24-4 record after the All-Star break.

Repeating the strong finish will be difficult. Ten of Denver’s final 12 games are against 2013 playoff teams, including two each against San Antonio, Memphis and Golden State. The Spurs beat the Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals, while the Warriors upset the Nuggets in the first round of the postseason.

Here’s a look at some of the games of note for the Nuggets in 2013-14:

Nov. 1 vs. Portland
Home openers are always special, and this game will be no different. Not only will it be Shaw’s first regular-season home game as Denver’s coach, but Nuggets fans will be enjoying a new state-of-the-art HD scoreboard and sound system.

The Nuggets went 3-1 against the Trail Blazers last season and will be looking for a successful start to a three-game homestand that also features the Spurs and Atlanta Hawks.

As a side note, Denver carries a 23-game regular-season home winning streak into its Pepsi Center opener.

Nov. 13 vs. L.A. Lakers
Shaw won three NBA titles as a player and two more as an assistant with the Lakers. This will be the first of four chances to beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as a head coach.
Players and coaches facing their former team for the first time usually chalk it up to “just another game” and Shaw probably will adopt that philosophy – but human nature suggests otherwise.

Dec. 1 at Toronto
Denver’s lone appearance north of the border marks the start of a season-long six-game road trip for the Nuggets, who went a respectable 19-22 away from home in 2012-13. As a subplot, former Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is now leading Toronto’s front office.

After facing the Raptors, Denver travels to Brooklyn to face the new-look Nets, who acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston this summer. The Nuggets also play Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington as part of the nine-day trip.

Dec. 23 vs. Golden State
In addition to knocking Denver out of the playoffs, the Warriors lured free-agent swingman Andre Iguodala away from the Nuggets this summer. Barring an injury, the December date would be Iguodala’s first game back at Pepsi Center.

Dec. 30 vs. Miami
There was only one team the Nuggets didn’t beat in 2012-13. Denver will get their first shot at the two-time defending champs when LeBron James and the Miami Heat come to town.
Quick stat to note: Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried posted two double-doubles against the Heat last season, averaging 19 points and 16 rebounds.

Feb. 10 at Indiana
Shaw makes his return to Indianapolis after spending the previous two seasons as the Pacers associate head coach.

During his time in Indiana, Shaw was credited with helping develop young players Paul George, Roy Hibbert and George Hill. The three formed the core of a Pacers team that took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

March 24 at Oklahoma City

If the Nuggets earn a top-four seed in the West and reach 50 straight wins for the fifth time in six seasons, they will have earned it by surviving the Daunting Dozen that start in OKC.

As mentioned above, 10 of Denver’s final 12 games – six on the road, six at home – are against 2013 playoff teams.

The Nuggets were strong against the West’s elite last season, going a combined 20-7 against the other seven playoff qualifiers.

April 16 vs. Golden State
History tells us that one game can make a huge difference while battling for playoff seeding in the West. Don’t be surprised if the season-finale at Pepsi Center holds tremendous postseason implications.

Other statistical notes:

--The Nuggets will play 13 sets of back-to-back games, down from 16 in 2012-13. They were 11-5 in the first of back-to-back games last season and 8-8 in the second game.

--Denver is schedule to appear on national TV 20 times – seven each on ESPN and NBA TV, and six on TNT.

--The Nuggets play four Western Conference teams just three times: Houston, L.A. Lakers, Sacramento and San Antonio.