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Celtics Wrap Up Road Swing vs. Nuggets

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Boston Celtics (35-18) at Denver Nuggets (36-19)
Sunday, February 21, 2010
3:30pm
TV: ABC; Radio: WEEI
Venue: The Pepsi Center
The Boston Celtics aim to sweep this current western road swing when they take on the Denver Nuggets at 3:30pm.
The Celtics are coming off one of their best performances of the season, a 96-76 thrashing of a banged up Portland Trailblazers team - their third consecutive win.
The Nuggets meanwhile, after tackling LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, lost by 10 points to a rebuilding Washington Wizards team on Friday. Denver has yet to win back-to-back games in the month of February, but has defeated teams like the Lakers, the Mavericks, and the Cavs, yet has also lost to teams like the Kings, the Jazz, and the Suns.
Despite their up-and-down month, the Nuggets boast the third highest scoring offense in the NBA (107.25 points per game), and feature the league's third leading scorer in Carmelo Anthony (29.3 points per game, absent from the lineup in Denver's losses to the Jazz and Suns). On top of that, the Nuggets have been steadied the past two seasons by point guard Chauncey Billups, who has brought a sense of leadership and poise to this Denver team that was lacking for much of Anthony's career.
The Celtics' starters will certainly have their hands full today, as Paul Pierce will be busy with Anthony, Rajon Rondo will have to worry about the larger, stronger Billups posting him up, Kevin Garnett will have to deal with Kenyon Martin, Ray Allen will be shadowed by Arron Afflalo, and Kendrick Perkins has to be poised for a physical matchup down low with Denver center Nene.
Denver also has a one-man wrecking crew on it's bench in J.R. Smith, who's more than capable of throwing in 20 or more points, while always being a threat from three-point nation. Chris Andersen, Denver's primary backup big man, sat out Friday's loss to the Wizards with back issues, and is questionable for today's game.
As with most teams that play an up-and-down, full court game, Denver allows over 100 points per game (102.54), but is averaging more rebounds per game than Boston (41.23 compared to 38.88), and turns the ball over at a respectable rate for a team that scores so often (14.34 turns/game).
Nate Robinson is not expected to play in today's game due to a case of the flu. He will most likely join the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday to take on his former team, the New York Knicks.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nene

Health Check: For the Celtics, guard Nate Robinson (flu) is doubtful, while forward Marcus Landry (ankle) is listed as questionable.

For the Nuggets, forward Chis Andersen (back) is listed as questionable.

Keep It In Mind: Paul Pierce boasts a career scoring average of 26.7 points per game against the Denver Nuggets.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Ray Allen scored 13 of his 21 points against the Blazers in the second half on Friday.

For the Nuggets, Chauncey Billups scored 28 points on 9-15 shooting against the Wizards on Friday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce was just 3-9 against Portland on Friday, finishing with nine points.

For the Nuggets, Kenyon Martin took just six shots against the Wizards and finished with only six points.

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

Honorable Mention: Rajon Rondo vs. Chauncey Billups

Skinny: While today isn't a "must-win" game for the Celtics, a victory were sure go a long way in terms of cementing the Celtics' play over the final few games of this road trip. After an admirable performance against Portland on Friday, the Celtics need to follow it up with another complete 48-minute game, which is what it will take to knock off such a talented Denver squad.

Defense will be the Celtics' main priority today, although it is something of a daunting task having to try and slow down this high-powered Denver offense. Nonetheless, the Celtics need consistency as a team right now, and a convincing win over the second best team in the Western Conference today would go a long way towards their ascent back up to the throne of the top teams in the league.