Nuggets play­ers know win­ning at home is key to their post­sea­son suc­cess.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey@den­ver­post.com or @dempsey­post

Will Bar­ton is a stand­ings watcher. He can’t help it. He wants the Nuggets to go to the play­offs, and he’ll al­ways know just what it takes to get there.

Right now, the Nuggets are in the midst of their most crit­i­cal home­s­tand of the sea­son if they want to be sur­prise play­off con­tenders come late in the sea­son. And be­yond that, fin­ish­ing out Jan­uary on a high note would keep Bar­ton and his team­mates on the brink of be­ing in the thick of things — and de­ter­mine how the trade dead­line is viewed.

“I want to be a play­off team,” Bar­ton said. “So I’m keep­ing my eye on the eighth and sev­enth seeds. We just need to string to­gether some wins and not go on long los­ing streaks, and I feel like we can be a play­off team.”

The Nuggets en­tered Tues­day night 3½ games out of the eighth spot. Get­ting there won’t be easy. Com­pe­ti­tion around the Nuggets is tough. Utah is get­ting health­ier, Sacra­mento has im­proved af­ter stum­bling out of the blocks and Port­land al­ready owns two wins in three matchups with the Nuggets.

The Nuggets won the first of their eight-game home­s­tand Sun­day against Char­lotte and would like to fin­ish 6-2.

“At least 6-2,” for­ward Danilo Gal­li­nari said.

Do­ing that re­quires beat­ing some of the NBA’s best teams, be­gin­ning with Golden State on Wed­nes­day night. There also are up­com­ing games against Western Con­fer­ence teams Ok­la­homa City and Mem­phis.

But the bulk of the games are against East­ern Con­fer­ence teams, and be­fore eyes are rolled, con­sider the East has been deeper and, out­side of Golden State and San An­to­nio, ar­guably bet­ter than the West.

All of the East­ern Con­fer­ence teams com­ing to Den­ver are cur­rently in play­off spots — Mi­ami, In­di­ana, Detroit and At­lanta. Out­side of Char­lotte, no team on this home­s­tand had a record go­ing into Tues­day’s game any worse than 21-16.

So a win­ning home­s­tand would be a boost.

“It would give us a lot of con­fi­dence,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “If we are able to go 6-2 in this home­s­tand, that will give us con­fi­dence as we con­tinue to get healthy mov­ing for­ward. If we can go into the all-star break with mo­men­tum, hope­fully that will help us come out of the break with mo­men­tum and, you know, see what hap­pens down the stretch. But that’s been our goal the whole sea­son: Try to get bet­ter ev­ery day and find a way to re­main com­pet­i­tive and rel­e­vant in the Western Con­fer­ence.”

It might also quell any front-of­fice urges to move mul­ti­ple play­ers at the trade dead­line.

Bar­ton noted “5-3 or bet­ter would be very huge. Es­pe­cially with the par­ity right now at the bot­tom of the West. So if you can get a win streak like that go­ing, on a home­s­tand like that, then you’ll be right in the mix.”

The Nuggets’ Will Bar­ton is think­ing about the post­sea­son: “We just need to string to­gether some wins and not go on long los­ing streaks, and I feel like we can be a play­off team.” Brent Lewis, The Den­ver Post

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