Nothing about the Nuggets' final eight games is easy or particularly inviting, but this team doesn't want it any other way.

Six of the games are against teams either in the playoffs or fighting to get in, starting Wednesday at Utah, a team desperate to hold off the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Jazz has done it well so far, having won five in a row.

The benefit for the Nuggets, playing to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, is tangible. They must prove they can compete at a playoff level without their point guard, Ty Lawson, out with an injured heel.

If the young Nuggets can do that, it could pay off when postseason play begins later this month.

"I like it this way," Nuggets coach George Karl said Tuesday. "I would rather have us playing tough opponents than opponents that we think we can come out flat and still win. I think the guys know that we have an edge, that we're playing at a good level. We've got to figure out how to cover for Ty's situation. But I think we're confident that we can."

Lawson, sidelined with a tear in his right heel, is expected to miss at least two weeks. The Nuggets played well without him in a win over Brooklyn at home last Friday. But that was at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets are almost unbeatable. Three of the final eight are on the road.

"It's good for us," forward Corey Brewer said. "It's going to get us ready for the playoffs. We can't take days off."