Under Pressure: Who Has the Most to Prove Over the Last Month of the NBA's Regular Season? – The Ringer (blog)

We’re less than a month away from the playoffs, but the NBA’s regular season still has surprises in store. From seedings to team lineups, there’s more than usual still in flux during the final stretch. Here are some of the teams, players, and coaches that will be under the most pressure in the run-up to the postseason.

The Nuggets

Denver is throwing away its shot right in front of our eyes. The Nuggets are now 37–31 and a full game out of the 8-seed after losing to the Lakers on Tuesday night. They hold no tiebreaker advantages over the teams above them in the playoff race and now have the worst odds of any of the Western Conference’s top-10 teams to advance — 32 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, 26.8 percent, according to ESPN’s BPI. The Nuggets’ odds to make the playoffs before the season began were better than those of seven current playoff teams. [Takes a deep breath.] How did this happen?

Since Paul Millsap’s return from a wrist injury 10 games ago, the Nuggets have been a .500 team, and as my colleague Haley O’Shaughnessy explained last week, head coach Mike Malone’s system has prevented Nikola Jokic from being, well, Nikola Jokic. Millsap has struggled to find a groove in Denver, while Jokic has been inconsistent all year. It also doesn’t help that Jamal Murray’s production since the All-Star break has dropped off.

Here’s the good news: Denver’s next four games are against the Pistons (remember when Blake was supposed to save them?), the Grizzlies (in the Tankathon), Heat (tough, but not unbeatable), and Bulls (in the Tankathon). Its final 10 games are against playoff teams, so Denver cannot afford to not go 4–0 during that stretch. If they drop more than one, well, my Ringer colleagues have put together some

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