Kiz vs. Singer: Where has the Nuggets’ homecourt advantage gone?

Kiz: Isn’t playing basketball at 5,280 feet above sea level supposed to be a huge advantage for the Nuggets? Maybe we could explain away one horrendous loss at Ball Arena as nothing more than the red-hot Celtics taking advantage of a leg-weary, depleted Denver roster that has hit the late-season wall. So let’s stay focused on the big picture. The Nuggets are 20-14 at home this season. This is beyond my meager abilities to understand NBA life, which is why I’m so lucky you’re my friend.

Singer: What you call lucky, others call unfortunate. Nonetheless, here we are. The last three seasons the Nuggets have won 25, 26 and 34 games, respectively, at the venue formerly known as Pepsi Center. Seven of Denver’s remaining 10 games will come at Ball Arena, meaning there’s still a chance to rectify the home record. The opponents — the Clippers, Suns, T-Wolves and Grizzlies — will make that a bear (pun intended). Sunday’s loss to the Celtics felt like half of Massachusetts traveled to Ball Arena. Earlier this season, Bulls fans turned the Nuggets’ home crowd into a sea of red. The homecourt advantage they’ve long enjoyed has waned. Maybe the fanbase, undermined by the headache-inducing TV dispute, is paying the price.

Kiz: Weary legs can lead to a lack of focus, humiliating defeat and belly-button gazing to wonder what has gone wrong. Don’t overthink it. Denver appears to me to be a team that has scratched and clawed for Ws in the absence of injured stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., but now is showing symptoms of burnout. Without MPJ or Murray, can the Nuggets get their mojo back in a hurry, especially if they are forced to participate in the dicey play-in portion of the tournament bracket?

Singer: They’ve lost four of six, including the Celtics’ blowout and the collapse in Cleveland. Although the Sixers’ win was tremendous, the nature of the Toronto loss was awful as well. The unsettling nature of these losses is extremely concerning. They’re getting punked, and embarrassed, at a time when they need to be building toward their optimal version. Some numbers: since Feb. 1, the Nuggets are 14-9, but their turnovers (15.2) are second-to-last in the NBA. Since March 1, their 3-point shooting is also 29th in the league. To me, those numbers indicate fatigue. There’s a good chance Nikola Jokic is getting worn down.

Kiz: Unlike Sunday night, when Ball Arena gave off a more New England vibe than a lobster boil at Faneuil Hall, the crowd will be there to support the local NBA team when the playoffs begin. (At least I hope so.) But will filling the arena with loyal fans be enough to get the home-court advantage back for the Nuggets? I’m not saying Nikola Jokic is doomed to the No. 7 seed in the West. But getting bounced from the play-in tourney on its home floor would be a sad ending for a team that has fought so hard through season-long adversity.

Singer: If they can’t leapfrog Minnesota in the next 10 games, and don’t fall any further, they’ll enter the postseason as the No. 7 seed. I still like their chances of winning one of two games and settling into a real playoff series. But there will be immense pressure to win the first one, likely locking in a series vs. Memphis, since the No. 8 seed would yield Finals-favorite Phoenix. And we all know how that went. I don’t think this season is lost. I also think Jokic’s play for the vast majority of the season raised the expectations. The Nuggets seem to finally be paying the toll of missing two of their top three stars. It’s somewhat remarkable they stayed afloat for this long.

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