Stat of the Day (3/8): Denver Lives at the Line

Stat: Denver leads the league in free throw rate differential with a mark of 10.03, outdistancing second place Oklahoma City by 1.53 points, which is more than separates the Thunder and third ranking Orlando.

Feb 6, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari (8) prepares to shoot a free throw in the third quarter of the game against the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 99-90. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Take: The Nuggets have struggled due to a rash of injuries to key players since their hot start to the season had them the talk of the league.  They’re just 8-13 over their last 21 games and have fallen to seventh place in the Western Conference, a mere game ahead of ninth place Houston.

Having said that, assuming the Nuggets gain a postseason birth they’ll be a tougher out than their likely seed would suggest.  Though their superior depth won’t be as big an advantage come playoff time as most suggest (when rotations are shortened and stars play more minutes), what’s going overlooked is their unmatched ability to draw fouls on offense and prevent from fouling on the other end.

When the game slows down and the point differential between the winning and losing team dwindles, making an impact at the line matters more than ever.  Denver, with foul-drawing machines Danilo Gallinari and Nene leading a host of other players that gain free throws better than most, is well-positioned offensively in that regard.  And on the other end, their uptempo style helps negate the need for fouling the shooter.  Keep an eye on this as Spring rolls around and the Nuggets are giving a higher seed a better fight than expected.

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