The Nuggets' test in the West is to be the best of the rest.

"We know that's probably our goal. I respect San Antonio; the Clippers and Oklahoma City are probably too far away from us," Nuggets coach George Karl said after Tuesday's practice. "Four is our goal."

Finishing fourth in the West would give Denver (28-18) home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series against the No. 5 seed, and thus avoid the Big Three in the first round.

"Realistically, we know 4-5 is a goal," Karl said. "And try to win that first round, gain confidence and keep a young team going in the right direction."

Since drafting Carmelo Anthony in 2003, the Nuggets have made the postseason every spring, but only once, in 2009, did Denver win a first-round series. It won the second round, too, advancing to the Western Conference finals.

Entering play Tuesday night, Denver was tied with Golden State for fifth, two games behind fourth-place Memphis. Denver, which nearly blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead in Monday's victory over Indiana, is finding ways to win, with an 11-3 record in January.