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Preview: Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets Game #15

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The Celtics look to end their road trip on a high note as they take on the Denver Nuggets.

DENVER NUGGETS VS BOSTON CELTICS, NBA Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Celtics are finally at the end of their 8 day and 5 game Western road trip. The Celtics close out their trip in Denver as they take on the Nuggets, who are 2nd in the West, behind only the LA Lakers. The Celtics are 4-2 vs Western teams and 6-3 on the road while the Nuggets are 4-1 vs Eastern teams and they are 5-2 at home. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Nuggets are 7-3 in their last 10 and are looking for their 4th straight win.

The Nuggets have one of the best home court advantages in the league. They play at high altitude and teams coming in aren’t used to it and often struggle in the thinner air. The Celtics are 97-79 all time vs the Nuggets and 36-54 in Denver. Denver swept the series 2-0 last season and have won 11 of the last 15 games played in Denver. They will meet one more time in Boston on December 6.

The Nuggets are looking for their 8th win in their last 9 games. They are one of the best defensive teams. The Nuggets are 7-0 when holding teams under 100 points. The Celtics need to match that defensive intensity along with figuring a way to score against Denver’s defense.

The Nuggets do not have anyone listed on the Injured List. Gordon Hayward remains on the Celtics Injured List with the hand injury. He has begun working out and shooting once again but is not cleared for contact as yet. Romeo Langford is still on assignment with the Red Claws, but has been out with an ankle injury.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Carsen Edwards
Javonte Green
Semi Ojeleye
Vincent Poirier
Brad Wanamaker
Grant Williams
Enes Kanter
Robert Williams III

Injuries/NWT
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out

Two Way Players
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Nuggets Reserves
Malik Beasley
Vlatko Cancar
Torrey Craig
Jerami Grant
Juancho Hernangomez
Monte Morris
Mason Plumlee
Michael Porter, Jr
Jarred Vanderbilt

Injuries
None Reported

Two Way Players
Bol Bol
PJ Dozier

Head Coach
Michael Malone

Key Matchups

Kemba Walker vs Jamal Murray
Murray is averaging 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is shooting 42.8% from the field and 36.8% from beyond the arc. In his last game against the Celtics, he put up 48 points and tried for 50, prompting Kyrie to throw the game ball up into the stands. The Celtics have to be sure to cover him tightly on defense and keep him from having another big game. Hopefully Kemba can get back on track after shooting 4-17 against the Clippers.

Daniel Theis vs Nikola Jokic
Jokic is a tough cover for any team. He is averaging 17.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. He is one of the best passing big men in the league. He is shooting 47.1% from the field and just 26.2% from beyond the arc. Daniel Theis played very well against the Clippers and should get the start here.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Will Barton
Barton is averaging 14.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is shooting 45% from the field and 44 % from beyond the arc. Jaylen will need to stay with him on the perimeter and not give him open shots. Jaylen shot just 3-14 against the Clippers and the Celtics will need a better game from him in this game.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics are 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 102.4 while the Nuggets are 8th with a defensive rating of 102.6. Both teams play tough lock down defense and so this should be another grind it out game. The team that plays the best defense will likely come out on top.

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 have a slight edge in rebounding averages with 47.1 to 46.5 rebounds per game for the Nuggets. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics have to work harder to grab rebounds to limit the Nuggets second chance points. The Nuggets are 2nd in the league allowing opponents just 10.4 second chance points per game. The Celtics can’t allow the Nuggets to outwork them on the boards.

Move the Ball - The Celtics play very well when they move the ball and find the open man. When the ball sticks and players try to do too much, take quick shots, and dribble too much, the Celtics struggle. Moving the ball is key to Denver’s offense. 64.5% of their field goals are assisted. Denver is first in the league in assists to turnover ratio at 1.95. The Celtics are 2nd in assist to turnover ratio at 1.93. The Celtics need to continue to move the ball and find the open man and also continue to take care of the ball while forcing the Nuggets to turn it over. The Celtics average 12.8 turnovers per game while the Nuggets average 13.3 turnovers per game.

X-Factors
Mile High Denver - One of the factors that makes Denver a tough place to play is their high altitude. The air is a bit thinner there and teams coming in and not used to it may be at a distinct disadvantage to the home team, who are used to the thinner air there. Hopefully the Celtics got there a day early and got somewhat acclimated to the altitude.

Road Weary- The Celtics are at the end of a tough and tiring road trip and are coming off of a tough overtime game vs the Clippers. They have traveled thousands of miles and have played 4 tough games already. The last game on a road trip is always a tough one. Hopefully, they have enough in the tank to pull out a win in this game.

Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating is always an x-factor. After seeing the refs change the momentum and basically give the game to the Clippers, we got a close up look at how much of an x-factor officiating can be. Every crew calls the game differently whether they call every little ticky tack foul or they let a lot of contact go and let the teams play. Some refs favor the home team (like the last game) and some not so much. The lead ref for this game is Tony Brothers, who may be the only ref worse than Marc Davis, who called the last game. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called.