Time: 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Place: TD Garden
Officials: Ed Malloy Kevin Fehr Kane Fitzgerald
TV: ESPN, CSNNE Radio: ESPN, WEEI
This game will present a challenge to the Celtics on many fronts. For one, the Celtics will face the opponent with the highest winning % since they played (and lost to) the Dallas Mavericks. Two, the Celtics-Nuggets have been a tough, close series of games for the last 3 years, each team winning one and losing one of the 2 match-ups they have each season. Three, the Celtics are going to face the Nuggets quite short-handed, as even at the time of posting this preview (2:00pm) it is unknown who is going to miss tonight's game due to injury.
The Nuggets have a third thing going for them, and it should not be underestimated. They are 1 win away from giving George Karl his 1,000th NBA victory, which would make him the sixth NBA coach to do so. Do not underestimate the factors against the C's here. Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups both have the tencency to 'get up' for big games. This game is probably as big a game as Denver will see all regular season, because it is against the Celtics, who every good team gets a little extra excited for, and because they have the opportunity to 'Win One For The Gipper'. George Karl's fight against throat cancer is the NBA's feel good/human interest story of the year, and George Karl as well as being a heck of a coach, is a heck of a good guy. No matter what Melo might say about leaving Denver for NY or NJ or Mars or whatever, he loves his coach. Denver will look at the Semih-wounded bird that is the Boston Celtics right now and see blood.
Boston on the other hand, has its first chance since the "Dallas Debacle" to really legitimate their record. Boston's last 10 opponents have a combined win % of .446 (meaning they have a combined losing record), and a win against a rolling Denver team while Boston is injured would go a long ways towards making this win streak man something important. Good teams win the games they're supposed to win, but great teams win the games they aren't supposed to win as well. Tonight if Boston took a dominating victory against a team that looks pretty dangerous about now, it would send a message league-wide.
Probable Starting Lineups
Injuries and Stuff: Delonte West (OUT), Jermaine O'Neal (OUT), Rajon Rondo (QUEST), Shaquille O'Neal (QUEST), Glen Davis (OUT), Kendrick Perkins (PAINTING)
Injuries And Stuff: Kenyon Martin (OUT), Chris Andersen (DTD)
Matchup Of The Night: Carmelo Anthony V Paul Pierce
-RIght now it is pretty indisputable that Carmelo Anthony is the better overall player. While Paul Pierce can at times take the team on his back and will a victory for the Celtics, Carmelo Anthony tries to do that for the Nuggets every single night. On a team wrought with dysfunction (JR Smith), tragedy (George Karl's battle with cancer), and turmoil (Melo's trade rumors), it is pretty amazing Denver is operating at the level they are now, and lot of that has to do with Carmelo Anthony.
That said, Paul PIerce is something Anthony is not...while he's capable on any given night of matching Anthony's scoring acumen, Paul's defense is leaps and bounds ahead of Melo's. While Melo might have the athletic edge that would imply he should play better defense, Pierce has bought into being a defensive player in a way Melo has not even dreamed of. Pierce never lacks for effort or dedication on the defensive end, and that might well make the difference in the game. If Pierce can hold Melo to less than 40% shooting and keep him off the FT line, the Celtics could dominate tonight.
Three Keys For The Good Guys:
1) Who's A Sleepy Bear? Denver Is...Denver Is...- Denver is 1 game into a 4 game Eastern road trip. After tonight, they've got Toronto and New York, making a solid 4 away games in 7 days. Tonight however is their only back-to-back, and the toughest game of the series for Denver. If Boston can come out with a substantially higher energy level and sustain that throughout the first half, they can get a historically weak-willed Denver team to possibly roll over and die early. Boston is on 2 days rest and has the real opportunity to overcome their injuries with a higher energy level.
2) 2 Words. Kevin. Garnett.- Denver's starting power forward is Shelden Williams. You may know him from his time at Duke, or his rare appearances on the Celtics last season, or his TV cameo on "The Simpsons". Behind him sits Al Harrington, and behind him is former UMass product Gary Forbes. Not a one of those guys can hang with KG. Harrington is a versatile offensive player, and he might put up some points, but Garnett can defend him a lot better than he can defend Garnett. KG should run wild tonight.
3) Second That Emotion- The second unit usual suspects will be asked a lot of tonight. Shaq is questionable, which means he may or may not even play (he probably will, but briefly). Same with Rondo. On top of that, Glen Davis is out. This is going to be...rough. Erden is going to play big minutes, so will Garnett. On top of that, Luke Harangody might be asked to log some serious time, and that's just the frontcourt. In the backcourt, Rondo might be out for the second game straight, and with Delonte already down, that means that Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and Von Wafer should all hit 15 minutes or higher tonight, with at least one of the 3 (probably Nate) logging 30 mins or higher.