2017-18 NBA Schedule: Nuggets’ playoff hopes could hinge on a difficult final 10 games

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With most teams holding media day in exactly six weeks, the NBA released its' regular season schedule Monday.

Here are some highlights from Denver's 2017-18 slate -

A softer opening

Last season, NBA schedule makers did Denver no favors with their first ten regular season games. The Nuggets, with an incredibly young and inexperienced rotation, spent seven of their first ten on the road, all against teams who came into last year as playoff-caliber franchises.

This year, Denver again has a road-heavy opening slate as they begin the season in Utah on Oct. 17 before hosting the Kings and Wizards at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets then head east to Charlotte, Atlanta, Brooklyn and New York. In total, they'll spend five of their first ten games on the road. An east coast road trip isn't the ideal way to start the year but the caliber of opponents isn't what it was last season. Denver lucked out in that regard.

Denver lucked out in that regard.

Jokic vs Nurkic II in Portland

The Nuggets' biggest game of last season, a 122-113 loss in Portland to the Trail Blazers which acted as the first nail in Denver's coffin last season, is still on the minds of Nuggets' players nearly six months later and Jusuf Nurkic going for a career night with 33 points and 15 rebounds in a revenge game-like setting was one of the low points of the year.

But Denver gets a chance to redeem themselves versus Portland on Nov. 13 in Rip City. That visit in Portland is just a one-game road trip, so Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and the rest of the Nuggets should be fully rested for the marquee matchup.

A difficult close to the year

The focus and chatter will be about Denver's opening slate of games to begin the season but turn your attention towards how the Nuggets are scheduled to close the year if you're curious about their playoff chances.

Six of Denver's last ten games come on the road against eight projected playoff teams (Washington, Toronto, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, the Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Minnesota again the close the year).

Denver is back on the national stage

The Nuggets are slated to appear on national television nine times next season, drastically up from the three matchups that placed them on either ESPN or TNT last season. Credit the rise of Jokic, and Gary Harris, along with the addition of Millsap for Denver's reemergence onto the national scene.

With an increased amount of exposure comes more scrutiny and higher expectations. It will be fascinating to watch how the Nuggets react to the bigger stage. They'll get their first chance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 9 at Pepsi Center on TNT.

Other scheduling notes

Denver's longest road trip will be from March 17 through March 30. The Nuggets will play seven games during that span against Memphis, Miami, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto and Oklahoma City. The Nuggets play in Cleveland on March 3 and host LeBron James and the Cavs on March 7. Denver hosts the Warriors on Nov. 4 then play in Oakland against Golden State on Dec. 23

As the league continues to study player health and the effect that both increased and minimal rest have on the overall game, there are some changes to this year's schedule to keep an eye on:

  • No more four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days.
  • Back-to-backs are reduced to 14.9 per team per season, from 16.3. 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from the schedule in total.
  • The number of weekend games (on Saturdays and Sundays) has been increased from 549 to 568.
  • According to USA Today, the league and its owners are expected to approve player resting rules, meaning there will be penalties for teams that rest players during certain regular season games.

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