For a team on the outside of the playoffs and looking in, the Denver Nuggets are in a relatively good position. They have been riding a late-season surge that has propelled them into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race with the chance to move into the playoff fold in the last days of the season.
With few games separating every competitive Western Conference team not named the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets have had to be at their best. While he has had an up and down season overall, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has been able to step up the last few games to help. Basketball Insiders recently spoke to Chandler, who was upbeat when asked how he felt about the team’s postseason chances.
“I feel pretty good,” Chandler told Basketball Insiders emphatically. “We can’t worry about anyone else, we just got to win games.”
And that’s exactly what the Nuggets have done as they have won their last five games. This winning streak started with an overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. In that win, Chandler played for 22 minutes until his night was cut short with a broken nose. The injury forced him to sit out Denver’s next game against the Milwaukee Bucks, another overtime win.
In order to return to action, Chandler has been forced to wear a protective mask. He made it abundantly clear how much he dislikes wearing the mask.
“The mask is super uncomfortable, I hate it,” Chandler told Basketball Insiders.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers, Chandler tugged at the mask between breaks in the action and occasionally during gameplay as it certainly seemed to bother him.
“Ten,” Chandler declared when asked on a scale of 1-10 how uncomfortable he felt wearing the mask.
Regardless of his intense level of discomfort, Chandler scored 13 points on 6-8 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes of action. In addition, Chandler registered a +19 rating for Denver in a resounding win that also ended the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff aspirations.
While wearing the mask the last three games, Chandler is registering +15.3 net rating and posting numbers modestly above his season averages. While Chandler hasn’t been a prolific scorer this season, he can fill the stat sheet elsewhere while trying to make the little plays. When asked how he feels about his own play as of late, Chandler was positive and straightforward.
“It’s pretty good,” Chandler stated. “You know, just doing a little bit of everything. Just trying to stay involved.”
Nuggets wingman Will Barton spoke to the media and detailed the atmosphere that players like Chandler are helping to create.
“The effort is there. I feel like guys are really playing for each other and just doing anything to win. And when you play that way, it’s going to be tough to lose,” Barton said.
Complicating the Nuggets’ attempts to force their way into the postseason is the ongoing absence of Gary Harris, who continues to sit out with knee issues. Recent reports are that Harris is doubtful for tonight’s game and he may also sit out the season finale in a critical game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team has been without Harris since March 15 but has managed to go 7-4 in his absence.
The Nuggets go into tonight’s game facjing the Portland Trail Blazers, who recently lost all three games in Texas to the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers will be under pressure to snap their recent losing streak and get at least one win to finish the regular season. With at least one win in their final two games against the Nuggets or Jazz, the Blazers can secure homecourt.
In the final game between the Nuggets and Timberwolves, each team will be fighting for their respective playoff lives. The Timberwolves have been tumbling down the Western Conference rankings since Jimmy Butler suffered a knee injury earlier this season. With Butler finally back in the lineup, the Timberwolves look to hang on to their postseason hopes. The Nuggets, who beat the Timberwolves last week, will have their hands full on the final night of the season and will have to play this critical game on the road in Minnesota.
Both of these final contests will test the Nuggets’ recent win streak and if broken, it may leave the team just short of the postseason. Chandler cut through the fluff and concisely summarized the Nuggets’ position.
“If we can’t win games, we can’t get in regardless,” Chandler told Basketball Insiders. “So, we just got to win games and see what everyone else do.”