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Shorthanded Celtics host road weary Nuggets

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The Celtics, who are still short handed, host the Denver Nuggets, who are playing in their 4th game of a 5 game road trip and in back to back games.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
at
Denver Nuggets (2-3) at Boston Celtics (3-2)
Sunday, November 6, 2016
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #6 Home Game #3
TV: CSNNE, Altitude, NBA-LP 756(DTV), 751(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 950 AM
TD Garden

Referees: Bill Kennedy, Eric Lewis, Scott Twardoski

The Celtics host the Denver Nuggets for their only visit to Boston this season. The Celtics have been off since Thursday and so should be rested and ready for this game. The Nuggets are playing on the second night of back to back games after losing to Detroit 86-103 on Saturday night.

This will be the Celtics first game against a Western Conference team. They have played all Eastern Conference foes in the first 5 games. The Nuggets are playing the 4th game of a 5 game road trip and may be feeling a bit of fatigue at this point. The Celtics have yet to have their complete team on the court. They played the first three games without Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk They finally got Smart back but then lost Al Horford with a concussion and Jae Crowder with a sprained ankle.

Kelly Olynyk has been cleared for full practice with contact. He went through a full practice with the Red Claws on Friday and another with the Celtics on Saturday. He is listed as questionable and more than likely if he still has no soreness in that shoulder at game time we may finally get to see him in this game. Al Horford and Jae Crowder are both making progress but are expected to be out for this game. It's possible that we could see both Horford and Crowder return on Wednesday. Tyler Zeller and Jaylen Brown started in place of Horford and Crowder against Cleveland and I'm going to guess that they may start once again in this game.

For Denver, Darrell Arthur missed Saturday's game in Detroit with a knee injury but is listed as probable for this game. Gary Harris has been out with a groin pull but returned on Saturday against the Pistons. Will Barton, who is averaging 18 points a game, is expected to be out with an ankle sprain.

Denver coach Mike Malone was not thrilled with his team's effort in the first quarter of Saturday's game against Detroit and vowed to change the starting lineup. He may move to replace starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay with veteran, and former Celtic, Jameer Nelson. He may move Wilson Chandler, who has been playing very well for the Nuggets, into the starting lineup. Or, he may decide to stick with the current group of starters for another game and see how it goes.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Emmanuel Mudiay

Shooting Guard
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Avery Bradley vs Jamal Murray

Small Forward

vs
Jaylen Brown vs Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward
vs
Amir Johnson vs Nikola Jokic

Center
vs
Tyler Zeller vs Jusuf Nurkic



Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko

Injuries
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) questionable
Al Horford (concussion) out
Jae Crowder (ankle) out

Head Coach

Brad Stevens


Nuggets Reserves
Malik Beasley
Wilson Chandler
Kenneth Faried
Juancho Hermangmez
Mike Miller
Jameer Nelson
Jurnell Stokes
Gary Harris

Injuries
Darrell Arthur (knee) probable
Will Barton (ankle) out

Head Coach
Michael Malone

Key Matchups
vs
Jaylen Brown vs Danilo Gallinari
I'm just guessing that Brown will start at small forward once again with Jae expected to be out. This may be a tough matchup for both teams. Gallinari has a height advantage and needs to be covered all over the court because he has good range on his shot. On the other hand, Jaylen has a strength advantage and should be able to out muscle him in the paint. Gallinari averages 16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game and stretches the floor with his 3 point shot. We may see more Jonas Jerebko in this game as he would match up quite well with Gallinari.

vs
Tyler Zeller vs Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic, the Nuggets 3rd year center is off to a very good start for the Nuggets. He is playing well and averaging 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Zeller must work to keep him out of the paint, which will be no easy task.

Honorable Mention
Isaiah Thomas vs Emmanuel Mudiay
Mudiay has been off to a strong start for the Nuggets and is averaging 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He has a height advantage over Isaiah (but then who doesn't?) but Isaiah has a way of neutralizing height advantages with his speed and wily moves.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics were expected to have a top 3 defense this season but they have not started out that way. They are second to the last in the league with a defensive rating of 109.1. As Isaiah Thomas said, they need to get their grit and grind back.

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 than the Nuggets for the entire game. They have to be the team that wants it more. They can't let the Nuggets outwork them.

Rebound
- The Nuggets are a very good rebounding team, averaging 52.2 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging just 40.4 rebounds. It will be tough rebounding against the Nuggets big front line, but much of rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put extra effort into grabbing rebounds, that effort often translates to the rest of their game. They have to crash the boards as a team and box out the Nuggets or this could be a long night.

3rd Quarter - The Nuggets have been second only to Golden State in 3rd quarter scoring. They have been averaging 31.8 third quarter points and allowing opponents just 22 points in the quarter. The Celtics have to come out strong after the half and match the Nuggets energy.

X-Factors
Injuries - The Celtics are going to be missing two starters and key players. The remaining players have to step up their games in order to make up for the players who are out. How well they do this will be the biggest x-factor.

Rust vs Fatigue - The Celtics have been off since their game on Thursday. After a couple of days, sometimes a team will lose their edge. Hopefully they come into this game ready to go. The Nuggets on the other hand are playing in back to back games and in the 4th game of a 5 game road trip and so they may run out of steam by the end of the game.