By defeating the Golden State Warriors 100-99, the Denver Nuggets have helped the Portland Trail Blazers toward a 5th seed finish. It is not a guarantee because the Western Conference is tighter than a sleeved jersey’s armpits, but Portland (51-28) is now 2.5 games ahead of Golden State (48-30). The Warriors could still jump ahead by winning out or winning 3 of 4 depending upon whether or not they can seal the season series with the Trail Blazers on Sunday, but this would require the Trail Blazers to lose a game or two as well. A lot would have to go wrong for Golden State to surpass Portland.
Take a moment to appreciate the effort of the Nuggets who, at this point, are so crippled by injuries that they only had 8 active players last night. Forced into a starting role by JaVale McGee’s tibia fracture and J.J. Hickson’s ACL tear, Timofey Mozgov had the best performance of his career. The MozGod smote Warriors center Andrew Bogut for 23 points, 29 rebounds, and 3 blocks; each of which was necessary for the Nuggets to squeak by as shorthanded as they were. Denver outrebounded Golden State 63-38.
The tin foil lining here is that the Trail Blazers are now virtually assured to play the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. If you’re a return reader, you’re not only one of my favorite people, but you’re aware that Houston is a matchup Dwightmare for Portland. Personally, I’d rather drop to 6th and play the Clippers, but I’m approaching broken record territory on that front, so I’ll stow my internet soapbox for the time being. Sidenote – If you’re unfamiliar with vinyl records or soapboxes, call your oldest relative. They’ll appreciate it.
Now it’s up to the Trail Blazers to secure their position. They travel to Utah tonight for what should be a painless outing against the 24-54 Jazz. Tune in at 6:00 p.m. PDT to see how it all goes down. As the Warriors found out, you never know when a seemingly hapless opponent will go nuts to ruin your playoff standing.