Nylon Calculus

Nylon Calculus: How worried should the Nuggets be?

It was a crazy first weekend in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. With all the Game 1 upsets, it felt like the typical first round of the NCAA tournament. We had a few underdog teams vying for the role of Cinderella as the Nets, Magic, and Spurs all won Game 1 on the road. While the 76ers, Raptors, and Nuggets laid a Game 1 egg.

The Nets beat the 76ers, forcing boos from the home crowd. The Sixers have since responded and outscored the Nets in Game 2, 145-123. Maybe an embarrassing Game 1 loss is all it takes to wake up the sleeping 76ers. Raptors and Nuggets fans are hoping their teams will respond in a similar fashion.

Raptors fans have a reason to be weary. The Raptors have had their playoff woes in the past but those came mostly at the hand LeBron James. With LeBron now playing in the Western Conference, and out of the playoffs altogether, it was assumed the Raptors might be able to make a deep playoff run. It’s only one game and the Magic don’t seem to have enough for power to compete with the Raptors. But Toronto had something to prove and it hasn’t started out so well.

Finally, the Nuggets are the team with the most cause for concern. They are the youngest and least experienced team in the playoffs. According to RealGM, the Nuggets’ average age of 24.7 years old is the youngest of any playoff team and this season is the first playoff trip for the Nuggets since 2012-13. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 2008-09 season to find their last playoff series win. The only players on the roster with significant playoff experience are Paul Millsap with 88 career playoff games, Isiah Thomas with 25 career playoff games and Mason Plumlee with 28 games.

The other factor playing against the Nuggets is their opponent, the San Antonio Spurs. With the winningest coach in NBA history and continued playoff success for the last two decades, the Nuggets and Spurs are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playoff experience. As if that weren’t enough, the Spurs also happen to be the worst road team in the playoffs and they just stole Game 1. The graph below shows all playoff teams and their breakdown of wins at home versus on the road.

home and away wins nba 2018-19

Out of the Spurs 48 wins, 32 of them came at home while they managed only 16 wins on the road for the entire year. Similarly, the Nuggets won 34 of their 54 wins at home and only 20 wins on the road. The fact that the Spurs have the experience advantage and managed to win Game 1 on the road despite the massive home court advantage of the Nuggets does not bode well for Denver. The Nuggets should be a little more worried than the other favorites who slipped up in Game 1.

It’s probably too early to jump to conclusions about the Nuggets and Spurs. But the Spurs have set themselves up nicely to push the Nuggets in their first-round matchup.

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