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Celtics look to finish road trip with a win over the Denver Nuggets

The Celtics finish their 5 game road trip looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Denver Nuggets. A win would give them a 3-2 winning record for the trip.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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Boston Celtics (41-24) at Denver Nuggets (29-35)
Friday, March 10, 2017
9:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #66 Road Game #36
TV: CSNNE, Altitude, NBA-LP 757(DTV), 757(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 950 AM
Pepsi Center
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, JT Orr


The Celtics close their 5 game road trip with a stop in the Mile High City to face the Denver Nuggets. The Celtics are coming off a big win over the league leading Golden State Warriors and hopefully will keep that focus without a let down to get a win over the Nuggets. The Nuggets are coming off a loss to the Wizards on Wednesday.

The Nuggets won big in Boston on November 6 by a score of 123-107. The Celtics were missing Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Al Horford in that game while the Nuggets were mostly at full strength. The Nuggets have won 9 of the last 12 games in Denver while the Celtics have won 16 of the last 19 in Boston.

Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 20-15 on the road while the Nuggets are 17-16 at home. Boston swept the series the last two seasons but are hoping to get a win in this game so as to split the series and not allow the Nuggets to sweep. The Celtics are 16-13 overall against Denver since 2003.

The Celtics got Al Horford and Jonas Jerebko back for their game on Wednesday and hopefully both are good to go in this game. James Young is questionable with a back injury for this one. Nikola Jokic, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari all missed Wednesday's game against the Wizards. Gallinari has been battling vertigo and was able to go through part of Thursday's practice.He is listed as probable for this one. Jokic was not able to go for Thursday's practice and according to Michael Malone, is very questionable for this game. Kenneth Faried is expected to miss this game.

Standings Reset
The Cavaliers are in first place and after a loss to the Pistons on Thursday, they are 2.0 games ahead of the Celtics. The Wizards are in 3rd and trail the Celtics by one game. The Raptors are in 4th place and are 2.5 games behind the Celtics. The Hawks are in 5th place and are 5.5 games back. The Nuggets are also fighting for playoff position and lead the Blazers by just half a game for the 8th spot in the West.

The Raptors are at the Hawks on Friday. The Wizards are at the Kings.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

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Isaiah Thomas vs Jameer Nelson

Shooting Guard
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Avery Bradley vs Gary Harris

Small Forward

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Jae Crowder vs Juancho Hernangomez

Power Forward
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Amir Johnson vs Wilson Chandler

Center
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Al Horford vs Mason Plumlee


Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Jaylen Brown
Tyler Zeller

Injuries
James Young (back) questionable

Head Coach

Brad Stevens


Nuggets Reserves
Darrell Arthur
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mike Miller
Will Barton
Malik Beasley
Jamal Murray
Roy Hibbert

Injuries
Danilo Gallinari (vertigo) probable
Nikola Jokic (illness) questionable
Kenneth Faried (back) out

Head Coach
Michael Malone

Key Matchups
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Amir Johnson vs Wilson Chandler
Chandler is averaging 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists. In the Game in Boston in November, Chandler came up big with 22 points and 5 rebounds. Amir will need to keep Chandler in check, especially on the boards.

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Al Horford vs Mason Plumlee
Jokic would normally start at center but has been out with an illness. The Celtics may catch a break if he remains out for this game. Plumlee isn't a slouch, however, averaging 10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Honorable Mention
Isaiah Thomas vs Jameer Nelson
Former Celtic Jameer Nelson seems to have big games against the Celtics. He is averaging 9.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Isaiah scored 30 points the last time these two teams met and he may have another big game in this one.

Marcus Smart vs Emmanuel Mudiay
Mudiay started the Nuggets' win in Boston and had 30 points and 8 rebounds. The game notes have him coming off the bench for this game. We know he is capable of having a big game and it will be up to Marcus to keep him from doing so.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics seemed to find their defensive grit against the Warriors, holding them to a season low 86 points. The Celtics need to keep that defensive mindset and they should get a win in this one.

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 46.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging just 41.6 rebounds per game but they have been gang rebounding recently and if they keep that up, they have a chance. 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.

Move the ball and Take Good Shots - The Celtics' ball movement was great against the Cavs and more of that would be great! They need to move the ball and guard against sloppy passes because the Nuggets will make them play if they turn the ball over. They also need to find the open man to get the good shots and not just throw up tough shots.

X-Factors
Injuries - In the first meeting between these two teams, the Celtics were missing 3 key players. This time, the Nuggets may be without 3 key players. If Jokic, Faried and Gallinari can't go, that would make the Nuggets thin in the front court and give the Celtics an advantage there. Hopefully the Celtics don't come up with any more surprise injuries for this game.

Fatigue and Focus - The Celtics are closing out a tough road trip and are coming off a big win after two tough losses. They are also playing at high altitude that will make it a bit harder for them. The Celtics need to keep their focus on the game at hand and block out all the distractions that come with playing on the road. They need to dig down and play hard regardless of fatigue from the road trip and the thinner air in Denver. Finishing 3-2 with make this trip a success.