The Denver Nuggets 2018-19 regular season schedule was officially released this afternoon giving the Nuggets their blueprint to attempting to make their first playoff appearance since 2012-13.
The Nuggets open the season on the road in Los Angeles against the Clippers on October 17th at 8:30 mountain time with their home opener coming October 20th versus the rising Phoenix Suns.
The #Nuggets will open the season on Oct. 17 at the L.A. Clippers. The home opener is on Oct. 20 vs. Phoenix.
The Nuggets have 14 nationally-televised games. And that is backing up all of the buzz they've been receiving of late.
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) August 10, 2018
With 14 nationally televised games the Nuggets will have ample opportunity to show out on the big stage, particularly late in the season with another tight playoff race quite likely. There will be 13 games that the team will play on back-to-back nights with 10 of those games followed by a third game in four nights. Denver’s longest home stand is four games while their longest stretch of road games is five, which is significantly better than their two six game road trips in 2017-18.
The schedule is home heavy to start, and rocky down the stretch again as the playoffs approach, nonetheless there is plenty of opportunity for the Nuggets to take advantage of this schedule.
Travel and Back-to-Backs
The NBA has made consistent effort to have less back-to-backs each year, which they have been successful at. This year the average for back-to-back games is only 13.3 (the Nuggets are right around the average with 13). On top of that, the NBA has successfully eliminated four games in five nights for the second consecutive year.
Notable tidbits on 2018-19 NBA schedule: No four-games-in-five nights again; back-to-backs are at historic lows (average of 13.3 per team this season, it was 19.3 in '14-15 and 14.4 last season) — and elimination of eight games in 12 nights for first time.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 10, 2018
As for the Nuggets, they were 4-10 in the second game of back-to-backs, 4-3 in the third game in four nights, and for what it’s worth 9-5 in the 1st game of back-to-backs. All of those are about the same or even a little worse than 2016-17 records in similar situations. That’s not something that’s totally unexpected, but if the Nuggets can finally improve on their back-to-backs record they will take another step closer to the playoffs.
Last season the Nuggets had only two out of their 15 back-to-backs end in the Pepsi Center. This season they have five games out of their 13 ending with a home game which should help them improve their record.
While the Nuggets can settle in to the Mile High City to start the year, with 10 of their first 15 games at home, they will get started on their back-to-backs early with a three game home stand featuring Phoenix, Golden State, and Sacramento. With plenty of time coming off their season opener in Los Angeles fatigue shouldn’t be anywhere near an issue as the Nuggets will have an early chance to steal a game against Golden State despite being on a back-to-back. Although the Nuggets haven’t been swept by the Warriors since 2002-03, last season was the first that they won two games against the Warriors since 2013-14 like they will attempt to repeat in 2018-19.
From that point on the back-to-backs get a little bit tougher from a travel perspective, along with tougher opponents to close the year. In total the Nuggets have five back-to-backs with the second game at home, eight with the second game on the road, seven third game in four nights with travel, and three third game in four nights with no travel after the second game of the back-to-back. Here are the remaining 12 back-to-backs and nine three in four night matchups:
-October 31st at Chicago (1st road game) [917 miles w/one day off] November 1st at Cleveland (2nd road game) [308 miles] November 3rd vs. Utah (1st home game) [1,224 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 2,449 miles
The Nuggets have a great chance to take advantage of this set of games with the two easier games being on the road before traveling back for an important home game against the Utah Jazz.
-November 23rd vs. Orlando (1st home game) [699 miles w/one day off] November 24th at Oklahoma City (1st road game) [504 miles] Total Travel = 1,203 miles
Denver will have to try to make quick business out of Orlando in the first game of this back-to-back before facing off with the division foe Thunder on the road in Loud City.
-December 7th at Charlotte (4th road game) [463 miles w/one day off] *previous games of road trip = Portland Nov. 30, Toronto Dec. 3, Orlando Dec. 5* December 8th at Atlanta (5th road game) [227 miles] December 10th vs. Memphis (1st home game) [1,210 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,900 miles Total Travel Five Game Road Trip = 3,850
Having a three game in four night series of games at the end of the longest road trip of the season isn’t exactly favorable. However, after facing Portland and Toronto, Denver will close the trip and return home by playing four non-playoff teams including three that picked inside the top six of the NBA draft.
-December 28th vs. San Antonio (1st home game) [802 miles w/one day off] December 29th at Phoenix (1st road game) [586 miles] Total Travel = 1,388 miles
The Nuggets close the calendar year facing two solid bigs in the Western Conference in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Ayton back-to-back nights, but the Nuggets seem well-equipped to matchup with both of these teams.
-January 7th at Houston (1st road game) [879 miles w/one day off] January 8th at Miami (2nd road game) [967 miles] January 10th vs. Los Angeles Clippers (1st home game) [1,725 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 3,571 miles
This is Denver’s longest travel three games in four nights stretch over 3,500 miles going from Houston to Miami in back-to-back nights. It will be important for Denver to try to steal at least one of the games in this series, with the Clippers game at home likely being the most important of the bunch.
-January 12th at Phoenix (1st road game) [586 miles w/one day off] January 13th vs. Portland (1st home game) [586 miles] January 15th vs. Golden State (2nd home game) [0 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,172 miles
Despite having two games at home in this series this is a tough draw of Western Conference playoff teams after kicking off against Phoenix. Fortunately, the Nuggets had a similar stretch last year with Portland and Golden State on a back-to-back on the road, and they were able to steal both games.
-January 25th vs. Phoenix (1st home game) [371 miles w/one day off] January 26th vs. Philadelphia (2nd home game) [0 miles] January 28th at Memphis (1st road game) [877 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,248 miles
Yet another start to a back-to-back against the Suns is interesting, but this set of games looks very winnable set of games despite closing with a road game at the Grindhouse against the rejuvenated Grizzlies.
-February 1st vs. Houston (1st home game) [1,080 miles w/ one day off] February 2nd at Minnesota (1st road game) [699 miles] February 4th at Detroit (2nd road game) [542 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 2,321 miles
This is certainly the toughest set of three games in four nights until the treacherous close to the season in April. Denver could never figure out Houston in last year’s season series, so trying to take one at home especially at the start of a back-to-back will be important. The Nuggets and Timberwolves were about as evenly matched as you could get last season and a game in Detroit at the end of this trip could be one of the trap games of the season against an improved Pistons squad.
-March 21st at Washington (2nd road game) [394 miles w/two days off] March 22nd at New York (3rd road game) [295 miles] March 24th at Indiana (4th road game) [596 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,285 miles
For three road games in four nights this is a favorable travel schedule going from Boston to Washington and then to New York before heading to the Midwest. These are certainly going to have to be games that the Nuggets bring their complete focus to so that they avoid being in consecutive must-win scenarios in April.
-March 28th at Houston (1st road game) [879 miles w/ one day off] March 29th at Oklahoma City (2nd road game) [414 miles] March 31st vs. Washington (1st home game) [504 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,797 miles
March 28th at Houston is essentially the start of Denver’s difficult close to the year. With three back-to-backs in a span of 13 days all against playoff teams from last season the Nuggets are getting no favors from their late-season schedule. In this set of games you hope the Nuggets are able to take the Oklahoma City and Washington games, or that they are in a position that they only need one win out of their 3 sets of three in four nights and back-to-backs.
-April 2nd at Golden State (1st road game) [940 miles w/one day off] April 3rd vs. San Antonio (1st home game) [940 miles] April 5th vs. Portland (2nd home game) [0 miles w/one day off] Total Travel = 1,880 miles
This is certainly the most difficult stretch of games the Nuggets have on this list. Good news for the Nuggets is that there’s a great chance they are better than the Spurs and Trail Blazers and are able to take advantage of a home game against each. Additionally, there’s the possibility that Golden State has the positioning locked up and isn’t in need of complete effort as they conserve for the playoffs.
-April 9th at Utah (2nd road game) [634 miles w/one day off] April 10th vs. Minnesota (1st home game) [371 miles] Total Travel = 1,005 miles
As opposed to the games above, these two games will almost surely have playoff seeding implications, and that’s if they don’t determine who’s in or out again. The thing you like to see with this formulation of the schedule compared to last year is that Denver will close at home as opposed to in Minnesota with playoff implications.
National TV Games
Last year the Nuggets were 6-9 in national TV games including NBATV. Obviously there’s little impact in predicting whether a team wins or loses whether they’re on national TV or not, but for an up and coming team like the Nuggets there’s an importance to taking advantage of your opportunities.
The Nuggets had 9 nationally televised games in the 2017-18 season on ESPN and TNT and despite some disappointing results were able produce one of the most entertaining buzzer beaters of the year in the OKC game on TNT with Gary Harris’ game winner.
The Nuggets have 14 nationally televised games this season. They had 9 last season. #Nuggets
— Rafael Torres 🇩🇴 (@RafaelTorresNBA) August 10, 2018
There figures to be plenty of competitive and entertaining action from the Nuggets on ESPN and TNT this season. With seven games coming against division opponents, out of the 16 possible division matchups, the networks appear to realize how intense the Northwest Division will continue to be this season.
The Nuggets also face off with the Lakers twice in what is growing into a rivalry that fans are familiar with when both teams are in playoff contention. After Jamal Murray sparked the rivalry last season it only figures to grow as the young teams grow and play it out on the national stage.
Denver will also face off with Philadelphia, Houston, and Luka Doncic and the Mavs to close out their national television schedule featuring 14 games:
-October 25th at Los Angeles Lakers on TNT
-November 30th at Portland on ESPN
-December 14th vs. Oklahoma City on ESPN
-January 23rd at Utah on ESPN
-February 1st vs. Houston on ESPN
-February 8th at Philadelphia on ESPN
-February 26th vs. Oklahoma City on TNT
-March 6th at Los Angeles Lakers on ESPN
-March 8th at Golden State on ESPN
-March 12th vs. Minnesota on TNT
-March 14th vs. Dallas on TNT
-April 2nd at Golden State on TNT
-April 5th vs. Portland on ESPN
-April 10th vs. Minnesota on ESPN
Top Five Home Games
Looking to attend a home game in Denver? These five games should bring a certain level of intrigue to the table this season.
1. Wednesday, April 10th – Minnesota Timberwolves @ Denver Nuggets
Another season finale with potential playoff implications in a growing rivalry between rising stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic. At the very least playoff seeding will be on the line, potentially even home court advantage.
2. Sunday, October 21st – Golden State Warriors @ Denver Nuggets
I’ll give this the best chance for the Nuggets to take down the Warriors during the 2018-19 season. While you likely won’t get the chance to see the Warriors with Boogie Cousins, you’ll see these teams while they are both fresh and otherwise healthy in just the second home game of the season for the Nuggets.
3. Tuesday, November 13th – Houston Rockets @ Denver Nuggets
Similar to the game above, if you’re looking to see the Nuggets take down some of the NBA’s elite this is one of the games to watch. This is the third game in four nights for the Rockets so there’s a chance fatigue could play a role for the Rockets. Meanwhile, the Nuggets will have been without a back-to-back since November 1st. If this year is like last year, however, and the Nuggets just can’t figure out the Rockets then at the very least you’ll want to be in the building for Carmelo Anthony’s first game in Denver as a Houston Rocket.
4. Tuesday, November 27th – Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets
This is the only time LeBron James and the new-look showtime Lakers will make a trip to Denver in their three-game season series this year. The only game of the series not to be featured on national TV will be one that Nuggets fans will have the opportunity to see in person in one of the best team rivalries from a fan perspective.
5. Saturday, January 26th – Philadelphia 76ers @ Denver Nuggets
Last season the Nuggets were unable to take advantage of the 76ers playing without Joel Embiid in their lone game in the Mile High City in one of the strangest atmosphere’s at a Nuggets home game that I’ve seen following the Lil B curse. This year this will likely be one of the most fun matchups against one of the elites of the East when Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of the Process come to town.
Vegas’ over-under recently came in at 47.5 wins for the Nuggets prior to the schedule release. After looking into how the schedule fell I’d be inclined to think that a healthy Nuggets team will finish over that number. Specifically, I believe the Nuggets have the best chance to finish with a 49-32 record (34-7 home record and a similar 15-26 road record), making yet another improvement with head coach Michael Malone at the helm. Where that puts them in the Western Conference remains to be seen, but it’d be hard to imagine them missing out on the playoffs again.