With their victory over Detroit on Thursday night, the Denver Nuggets clinched a spot in the playoffs and ended a four-game losing streak.
After the recent losing streak, securing the top seed in the Western Conference, which had previously appeared to be almost certain, is the next task on the list. Denver has 12 games remaining to finish atop the conference for the first time in the NBA franchise’s history, beating the Sacramento Kings by 4 1/2 games.
Saturday’s matinee game against the New York Knicks will be the next step in the quest.
In the second half of their victory over the Pistons, the Nuggets (47-23) appeared to find their defense. After allowing Toronto to score 49 points in the first quarter, Denver held them to 36 points in the second half.
On defense, it has been a struggle; During the losing streak, the Nuggets gave up 123 points per game but held Detroit to 100, becoming the first team to win a division and the second team to get into the playoffs.
Denver’s goal from the beginning of the season was to win the NBA title, which will require a few road victories in the postseason. The Nuggets are 30-6 at Ball Arena and 17-17 away from home. On Nov. 16, New York was one of those six losses.
The Knicks’ (41-30) road record is better than their home record, but they have won five of their last six games at Madison Square Garden. They also have a slight advantage for Saturday’s game because they haven’t played since Tuesday night, when they won at Portland to end a four-game road trip.
Since the beginning of February, New York has been one of the NBA’s hotter teams outside of Milwaukee, going 13-4 to get in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Cleveland Cavaliers, ranked fourth, are not far behind the fifth-seeded Knicks.
They have gone 11-3 since acquiring Josh Hart from Portland, despite not making a lot of noise at the deadline for trades. Hart is confident in his new team’s ability to win the postseason and has contributed to the resuscitation of New York.
Two of the NBA’s best big men will compete in Saturday’s game. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is averaging a triple-twofold (24.7 focuses, 11.9 bounce back and 10 helps) and is poised to win his third consecutive MVP while Julius Randle leads New York in focuses (25.2) and bounce back (10.3).
Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ guard, could be out for the fourth consecutive game. Brunson, who leads the team with 23.7 points per game, injured his foot in the loss to Sacramento on March 9 and hasn’t played since.