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Woody Paige: Avs, Nuggets have only themselves to rely on in playoff chase

March 31, 2018 Updated: April 1, 2018 at 11:15 am
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The Nugs and the Avs have not reached the postseason together since 2009-10. The Avalanche have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Nuggets four.

Unlike Blanche DuBois, the Avalanche and the Nuggets would rather not depend on the kindness of strangers.

If so, then the Avalanche of Ice and Kid MacK and the Nuggets of Pickaxes and The Joker must be independent enough to win their 10 (collective) remaining games.

The Nugs and the Avs have not reached the postseason together since 2009-10. The Avalanche have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Nuggets four.

They have a delicately balanced chance now.

Both are on the cusp after critical victories on Friday night, but they could fall off the precipice in the next 11 days.

Their records are nearly identical. The Nuggets are 41-35 after that playoff death-defying 126-125 overtime victory in Oklahoma City, ending their longest trip of the season with a 3-4 mark. The Avs have won 42 games and lost 38 (eight in overtimes and shootouts), and came up with an awe-inspiring 5-0 shutout over the Blackhawks at The Can Friday.

Defeats would have meant the end, realistically, in March. April is a new beginning.

Eight teams qualify per conference for the playoffs in the NBA and the NHL. The Nuggets are tied (kind of) with the Clippers for ninth in the Western Conference. The Avs were tied (sort of) with the Blues for the final spot in their Western Conference.

The Nugs and the Avs are chasing nobly.

On Sunday take your eyes off the Rockies and the Broncos (both idle) and play close attention to the Nuggets, and Nikola Jokic, and the Avalanche and Nate MacKinnon.

Both shining stars were born in 1993 - one in Serbia and the other in Canada. The Joker is averaging 17.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.2 steals and .08 blocks a game, and is a nightly triple double threatening to occur. He's the best unknown NBA player.

Kid MacK, or Nate Dawg, is known. He's a Hart Trophy recipient in-waiting only one point away from 300 in his fifth season. This year he has 93 (38 goals and 55 assists).

The Special Serb vs. The Greek Freek at The Can on Monday. Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.3 points, 10 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks.

All six of the Nuggets' games are against playoff teams - the Bucks and the Pacers from the Eastern Conference, then a third straight game at home against the Timberwolves, followed by a road game in L.A. against the Clippers and the last two here against the Trail Blazers and in Minneapolis on April 11.

No tomato cans and tankers.

The Nuggets need to get to 47 victories, but might sneak in, with help, at 46. They currently own tiebreakers over the Thunder, the Jazz and the Pelicans, but not the T-Wolves or the Clippers.

The Nuggets, who have won four games in a row once, must give no quarter and not give up a quarter.

The Avalanche's effort to secure one of the two wild-card places in the West in their final week is just as arduous, if not more so.

The first three are on the road against teams from the Pacific Division - the Ducks, the Kings and the Sharks - and none has clinched a playoff berth yet, although L.A. and San Jose seem like certain things.

The Avalanche did win 10 consecutive games earlier this season. Four is not implausible, even with the youngest team in the NHL. It is well to remember that the Avs have beaten the Ducks and the Sharks in four games, but they have lost twice to the Kings, and are 1-2 against the Blues.

A total of 100 points will guarantee the Avalanche the postseason, and 98 probably would make it.

The prize for the Avs likely would be a first-round pairing with the Golden Knights. The reward for the Nuggets probably would be a series with the Rockets. But, those matchups sure are better than the usual annual alternative for the Kroenke & Son franchises.

The Avalanche and the Nuggets can't rely on the kindness of others in the NHL and NBA.

But if they ride into playoffs, RTD should name a light rail train Desire.

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