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Celtics look for back to back wins as they continue road trip in Denver

Celtics continue their brutal West Coast trip with a stop in Denver.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (14-26) at Denver Nuggets (18-24)
Friday, January 23, 2015
9:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #41 Road Game #19
TV: CSNNE, Altitude, NBA-LP 763(DTV), 758(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 104.3 FM
Pepsi Center

Referees: Marc Davis, Curtis Blair, Kane Fitzgerald

The Celtics come into Denver on the back end of a back to back set after playing in Portland on Thursday night. This is the first of two meetings between these two teams. They will meet in Boston on February 4 to finish the season series.

The Nuggets have won 9 of the last 10 games between these two teams in Denver while the Celtics have won 14 of the last 16 in Boston. These two teams have been fairly evenly matched over the last few years. Since the 2002-03 season, the series is 12-11 in favor of Denver.

The Nuggets are coached by former Celtic Brian Shaw. Shaw was the 24th pick by the Celtics in the 1988 draft. He averaged 10.2 points and 5.9 assists for the Celtics from 1988 through 1992.

The Nuggets and Celtics are close offensively. The Celtics average 102.1 points per game while the Nuggets average 101.7 points per game. They also are close in the number of points they allow. The Nuggets are 4th in the league, allowing 104.4 points per game while the Celtics are 5th, allowing 104.2 points per game. The Nuggets are a good rebounding team, however, averaging 45.7 rebounds per game, good for 4th in the league.

Brad Stevens shook up the starting lineup on Thursday, starting Brandon Bass instead of Tyler Zeller. The Celtics started off much better and had a nice first half and so it's possible he will keep the game starting group for this one. Or, he may change it up some more. James Young may return to the active list for this one after missing the past week with the flu.

The Nuggets have lost their last 4 games and have allowed opponents to average 110.3 points over that span. Faried is questionable for the Nuggets with the flu, which may change the starting lineup for them. Also, Ty Lawson was arrested for DUI early on Friday and his status is questionable for this game as well. It's possible that they may get Danilo Gallinari, who has been out since December 20, back in the lineup for this one.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

Evan Turner vs Ty Lawson

Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley vs Arron Afflalo

Small Forward

Jae Crowder vs Wilson Chandler

Power Forward
Brandon Bass vs Kenneth Faried

Jared Sullinger vs Jusuf Nurkic

Celtics Reserves
Phil Pressey
Tyler Zeller
Gerald Wallace
Marcus Smart
Marcus Thornton
Tayshaun Prince
Shavlik Randolph

James Young (illness) day to day
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) out

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Nuggets Reserves
Darrell Arthur
Randy Foye
Alonzo Gee
Erick Green
Gary Harris
JJ Hickson
Jameer Nelson

Danilo Gallinari (meniscus) probable
Kenneth Faried (flu) questionable
Javale McGee (leg) questionable
Ty Lawson (DUI) questionable

Brian Shaw

Key Matchups
Evan Turner vs Ty Lawson
Lawson is averaging 16.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 9.9 assists and slowing him down will be key to keeping the Nuggets from getting into their offense quickly. Lawson is 3rd in the league in drives to the hoop and so it will be important to defend him inside and out. We will probably see Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart on him for parts of the game as well. UPDATE: Lawson's status is up in the air after an early morning DUI arrest. (At the least we know that he wasn't in bed early preparing for this game.)

Brandon Bass vs Kenneth Faried
Faried has a motor that doesn't quit. He reminds me of Jae Crowder in some ways. He is averaging 11.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists. In the last game vs the Celtics, Faried had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Bass scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the two games vs Denver last season. He is also averaging 15.3 points on 54.5% shooting over the last 3 games. This should be a good matchup.

Keys to the Game

Defense - Defense is the key to winning every game. Against the Nuggets, transition defense is especially important because the Nuggets will run them out of the building if they don't find a way to get stops.

Go to the Hoop
- The Celtics need to get the ball inside and not settle for outside shots, especially if they aren't falling. When they get into the paint, good things happen and playing in back to back games on the road, their legs may not be there for a lot of long jumpers.

Run! - We know that the Nuggets will run and the Celtics also need to run to keep pace with them. The Celtics are much better when they push the ball and run and get their shots before the defense can set up.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have struggled with playing for the entire 48 minutes in many games this season. They have to come out strong and avoid the lapses in the middle where they turn the ball over and miss their shots. And then, they have to close the game out strong.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to fight for loose balls, defend aggressively, be aggressive in driving to the basket, and just play harder for the entire game.

Limit Turnovers - The Celtics turned the ball over 17 times for 17 Blazer points in last night's game. Even though they won, that is too many turnovers and more often than not you will lose giving up that many points on turnovers. The have got to focus and take better care of the ball.

Fatigue and Thin Air

The Celtics are playing in back to back games and also had to travel after playing the game on Thursday. Fatigue could be a problem down the stretch.

The Nuggets have a home court advantage in that they are used to the thin air in Denver while visiting teams are not. Hopefully it won't affect the Celtics too much. But they have lost 9 of the last 10 games in Denver, so maybe it will be a factor.

Official Report

Marc Davis

Marc Davis has been an NBA official for the past 16 seasons, working 977 regular season games, 55 Playoff games, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Davis has officiated four Finals games during his career. In addition to his NBA experience, Davis has three years of CBA officiating experience and three years of collegiate basketball officiating experience in the OVC and TAAC Junior Colleges. He grew up in Chicago and is still active in the Chicago area.

Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics history with Davis goes way back also. In 2009, Davis was seen after a Celtics/Bulls game with his family all decked out in Bulls gear. Can a Bulls fan honestly call a Celtics game without any bias, especially one against the Bulls?

In a win against the Hawks three seasons ago with Davis, the officiating was terrible. The Hawks shot 23 free throws to 13 for the Celtics. KG fouled out in that game on a terrible call. They were holding his jersey and had an elbow in his back and they called the foul on KG. Greg Stiemsma fouled out shortly after on two more terrible calls. In the 4th quarter, 12 fouls were called on the Celtics and only 4 on the Hawks. In OT, 4 fouls were called on the Celtics while none were called on the Hawks, even through there were several very obvious fouls committed. Donny Marshall usually doesn't comment on the officiating but said that the Celtics needed to send the tape of that game to the league because Davis made it all about him. Davis also called Game 1 of the Hawks playoff series three seasons ago. There were missed and bad calls the entire game. At one point, the ref at half court called an obvious foul on the Hawks when Davis, right next to the play, failed to call it. The frustration over the lack of calls boiled over and resulted in Rondo bumping Davis and being ejected and suspended.

In a game two seasons ago against the Bulls, the officiating was terrible. With 12 seconds left, Pierce was trapped and fouled, including a busted lip, right in front of Davis with no call. Rondo was signalling for a time out right in Davis' face but they called a jump ball instead of calling the foul or the time out. Even Hubie Brown was talking about how bad the calls were the entire game and Hubie doesn't usually comment on the officiating. Last season, in a game against the Kings, Davis even got to the mild mannered Brad Stevens. Davis ignored obvious pushing and shoving by DeMarcus Cousins all night. At one point, Gerald Wallace pointed out an obvious fould by Cousins and was tossed to which Stevens pointed out that he could have thrown out Cousins all game and was tossed.

The Celtics are 3-0 this season, including a win over the Knicks in preseason, and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Davis while the Nuggets are 2-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 with Davis. His home W/L record this season is 19-18.

Curtis Blair
Curtis Blair is entering his eigth NBA season having officiated 322 regular season games. Blair has six seasons of NBA D-League experience and worked the 2008 NBA D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences, including the Atlantic 10, Atlantic Coast Conference and the CAA. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992 and played professionally in Australia, Austria and Turkey. Like most refs, Blair has been good and bad in previous Celtics games. In a Clippers game last season, he ignored fouls by the Clippers and called phantom fouls on the Celtics all game. Tommy made the comment that the Celtics had no shot to win after the officiating took over. The Celtics are 1-3 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 games with Blair while the Nuggets are 1-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 16-16.

Kane Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald has officiated 313 games in his five seasons as an NBA official. Fitzgerald started refereeing at the age of 18 at the high school level in New Jersey. Prior to the NBA, he had professional experience in the NBA D-League for four years and the WNBA for two years. He also refereed NCAA Division I basketball in the Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun and Big South Conferences for two years. You may remember Fitzgerald from 4 seasons ago when he gave KG a very quick pair of technicals (from about 30 feet away) and tossed him in the 2nd quarter of the Celtics 104-101 win over the Knicks (in which Amare scored 30). In another outing that season with the Celtics, the loss to the Bobcats in Charlotte, he tossed Stephen Jackson after 2 quick questionable T's. His quickness in giving technicals dates back to his days in the D-league where he was close to the top in calling technical fouls there as well.

You may also recall him for calling the Nets game that resulted in the brawl. Fitzgerald gave Doc a T for yelling instructions to Rondo. They let the Nets get away with pushing and shoving and hard fouls the entire first half. The Nets shot 17 free throws to 5 for the Celtics in the first half and 3 of those free throws were on technicals. They did better in the second half after the brawl, but the refs' failure to call the game evenly in the first half led to frustrations and the fight. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 games with Fitzgerald. The Nuggets are 2-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 with Fitzgerald calling the game. His home W/L record this season is 19-14.

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