The Denver Nuggets make their only visit to the TD Garden for the second and final game between the Nuggets and Celtics this season. The Nuggets won 96-92 in Denver after Kemba collided with Semi in the second quarter and was taken off the court on a stretcher. The Celtics struggled after he left, going down by 19 in the third quarter. However, as this team often does, they came back to cut it to 1 point with just 2:19 to go before the Nuggets closed out the game.
The Celtics are now 2nd in the East after beating the Heat on Wednesday. They are 8-0 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Nuggets are 3rd in the West and 6-2 on the road. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 5-3 vs the West while the Nuggets are 7-1 vs the East. The Celtics have won their last two games while the Nuggets are looking for their second straight win.
The Nuggets are playing on the second night of back to back games. They had an easy win on Thursday night as they beat the Knicks 129-92 with their starters all playing 24 minutes or less. This is only their second back to back set this season. They lost the second game at home in that first back to back. This is the second game of a 4 game Eastern road trip for the Nuggets.
Marcus Smart sat out Wednesday’s game with an illness and soreness from an oblique injury. He has been upgraded to probable and his status will likely be a game time decision. At practice today he said he plans on playing but it will be up to the trainers. I have put Marcus in the starting lineup because I’m hoping he will be back, but if he is out, it’s hard to predict who will start. It could be Semi, who played so well in the last game, or it could be Grant Williams, who got the start on Wednesday, or it could even be Brad Wanamaker or Javonte Green.
Romeo Langford is out with an ankle injury. Gordon Hayward will likely practice with the team this weekend but is still out for this game. Vincent Poirier was assigned to the Red Claws on Thursday where he had 14 points on 6-9 shooting to go with 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks off the bench. He has been recalled to the Celtics for this game. The Nuggets have no one listed on their injury list.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out
Marcus Smart (illness/oblique) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Nuggets Starters
Michael Porter, Jr
Two Way Players
Kemba Walker vs Jamal Murray
Murray is averaging 18.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He is shooting 43.8% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. In a game against the Celtics last year, he put up 48 points and went for 50 as the clock wore down, prompting Kyrie to punt the game ball way up in the stands. He scored 22 points in the last game in Denver. He is the Nuggets’ leading scorer and so the Celtics need to play good defense to keep him from having a big game.
Daniel Theis vs Nikola Jokic
Jokic is a tough cover for any team. He is averaging 15.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. He is one of the best passing big men in the league. He is shooting 45.2% from the field and just 22.5% from beyond the arc. He had a triple double of 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists when these teams last met. The Celtics try to keep him out of the paint and off of the boards.
Jayson Tatum vs Paul Milsap
Milsap is averaging 13.9points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. He is shooting 49.1% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Jayson must stay with him on the perimeter or he will make them pay by raining down 3’s.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game but especially this one. The Celtics are 4th with a defensive rating of 103.2 but they have let their defense slip at times, especially defending the perimeter. The Nuggets have the best defensive rating in the league at 101.5 The Celtics average 110.8 points per game while the Nuggets average 107.3 points per game. The Celtics shoot 44.1% from the field while the Nuggets shoot 45.1%. The Celtics shoot 34.8% from three while the Nuggets shoot 35.8% on 3 pointers. On Thursday against the Knicks they shot 53.8% from beyond the arc (21-38) and so the Celtics must especially guard the perimeter because the Nuggets can hit the 3 if left open. With their offenses so close it will come down to which team can stop the other team from scoring. The Nuggets are a very good defensive team and so the Celtics need to work very hard on the defensive end if they want to get a win in this game.
Rebound - The Nuggets and Celtics average almost the same number of rebounds per game with the Celtics averaging 46.6 rebounds to 46.9 rebounds for the Nuggets. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics have to work harder to grab rebounds to limit the Nuggets second chance points and fast breaks. The Celtics can’t allow the Nuggets to outwork them on the boards.
Effort and Energy - 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. When the Celtics lose, it is mostly because they lack energy and effort and allow teams to outwork them. They have to be the team that wants it more and plays like it. They especially have to begin the game with energy and not allow the Nuggets to race out to a big lead.
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. They have to move the ball and look for the best shot and not force shots and not take quick shots.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again playing at home where they should get a boost from their fans. Celtics fans should remember that early loss to this team and be loud enough to rattle the Nuggets’ focus. The Celtics need to make an extra effort to protect home court.
Bench Play - If the Nuggets have one weakness it is their bench. The Nuggets’ reserves are 22nd in the league, averaging only 33.7 points per game. However, against the Knicks on Thursday, the starters played only 2 quarters or less and the Nuggets reserves scored 74 points. The Celtics bench will be a bit short if Marcus can’t play and with Gordon still out, but hopefully they will still be able to hold their own and even dominate against the Nuggets reserves, especially on the defensive end.
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating is always an x-factor. 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 and some not so much. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let the calls affect their focus or their play.