To whit: If they don't up-end the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road Wednesday, they'll likely meet OKC in the playoffs. And get crushed.[jump]
On Sunday, the Nugs locked up a playoff berth by walloping the Orlando Magic -- a victory that would have been more impressive if Dwight Howard hadn't been on the shelf and Jameer Nelson not gotten knocked out less than two minutes into the contest. The victory moved Denver half-a-game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks into the sixth seed in the West.
If the season ended today, that would mean the Nuggets would avoid OKC, currently the second seed, and instead draw (probably) the Los Angeles Lakers -- a squad currently in the spotlight due to the war-like elbow thrown at the Thunder's James Harden by the man who now calls himself Metta World Peace. But the calendar isn't stopping, and Denver's advantage over Dallas can evaporate quickly. The Nugs have two games remaining, and while one is likely a gimme -- because the Minnesota Timberwolves have decided to sit Kevin Love rather than risk him getting injured again by Denver's JaVale McGee, who gifted KL with a concussion earlier this month (see the video below). But the other is against the Thunder in Oklahoma -- a place the Nuggets, and lots of other teams, have a mighty hard time winning.And Dallas? The Mavs have only one game left in this weird, lockout-shortened season, against the Atlanta Hawks. Should they win it, they'll get the sixth seed if the Nuggets split their remaining two matchups, because they own the tiebreaker with Denver.
For that reason, the only way the Nuggets can guarantee not to hear Thunder first thing would be to win both their remaining games.
Can they do it? Maybe. OKC is likely to have nothing to play for, playoff-position-wise, by Wednesday, and perhaps coach Scott Brooks will sit many of the squad's heavy-hitters. But the Nuggets have been so erratic of late -- brilliant one night, mediocre the next -- that there's no guarantee they'd beat the Thunder's second string.
Which brings up a valid question: Does playoff seeding mean that much to Denver under any circumstances, since they aren't exactly a championship-caliber outfit? The answer, in my view, is yes. The Nuggets are young, and playing in a competitive series would provide great experience to youngsters like Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson -- talents who need to take the next step if Denver is to become a true threat, rather than a squad that loses every year in the first round.
Here's a video showing the moment when McGee showed a certain Kevin the opposite of Love.
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More from our Sports archive: "Video: Nugget JaVale McGee's awful play turns him into Deadspin star."