First-round future still up in the air for Nuggets

With two games left, several possibilities remain as Denver battles for No. 3 seed
by Aaron Lopez

Just who will the Nuggets face in the first round of the playoffs – and will they have home-court advantage?

The possibilities are enough to make your head spin.

With two games remaining, Denver (55-25) is locked in a tight race for the 3, 4 and 5 seeds with the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.

As division winners, the Clippers (54-26) hold tiebreakers over both Denver and Memphis (54-26), but the Nuggets have the tiebreaker against the Grizzlies by virtue of winning the season series 3-1.

And that’s the simple stuff.

“Usually when you win 55, it separates yourself,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “This year, five teams in the West are going to have 55 wins, probably. You have four teams right now that you could play (in the first round). It’s probably not going to be determined until Wednesday at 8 or 9 o’clock at night.”

Indeed, the Nuggets could play the Clippers, Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets when the postseason starts this weekend.

To help clear up the confusion (or compound it), here is a glance at the possibilities for Denver heading into tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Simple Formula
If the Nuggets win their final two games, they will secure the No. 3 seed regardless of what the Clippers and Grizzlies do. Under this scenario, Denver would open the playoffs at home against either Houston or Golden State. The Rockets are currently the No. 6 seed.

Split and Get Help
If the Nuggets split their final two games, they can still finish third if the Clippers lose once. L.A. finishes at home against Portland and at Sacramento in what could be the final home game for the Kings. The Grizzlies can’t catch Denver under this scenario.
Just to enter it into the record, the No. 3 seed also goes to Denver if the Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies all split their final two games.

Against All Odds
The Nuggets could still finish third even with two losses to end the season, but they would need the Clippers to lose both of their remaining games and the Grizzlies to lose at least once. Memphis plays at Dallas and home against Utah.

Four on the Floor
If the Nuggets and Grizzlies both split their final two games and the Clippers win out, Denver would finish fourth and have home-court advantage in a series against Memphis.

Worst-case Scenario
If the Nuggets lose their final two games and the Clippers and Grizzlies win out, Denver would finish fifth and open the playoffs at No. 4 Memphis.

Consolation Prize
The Nuggets could still open the playoffs at home as the No. 5 seed against the fourth-seeded Clippers if Denver and L.A. both lose their final two games and Memphis wins out.

Side Note
As the No. 4 seed, the Nuggets would only play the fifth-seeded Grizzlies. As division winners, the Clippers can’t drop to No. 5. Los Angeles needs to win out and have the Denver lose once for this scenario to take place.