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Denver Nuggets at Boston Celtics Game #27 2/16/21

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The reeling Celtic look to get back on track as they host the surging but shorthanded Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics face the Denver Nuggets, who make their only visit to the TD Garden this season. They will likely meet once again in the second half of the season when that schedule is released. They split the series 1-1 last season, with each team winning on their home court.

The Celtics are reeling, having lost 10 of their last 15 games and 2 straight to the two worst teams in the East. The Nuggets, on the other hand are surging. They have won their last 3 games, including a 17 point win over the Champion Lakers on Sunday, despite missing 4 of their players.

The Celtics are 4th in the East, 4 games behind first place Philadelphia and tied with 5th place Indiana. Things could be worse, but Philly has lost their last 3 games. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 6-4 at home and 3-5 vs Western Conference teams. The Nuggets are 7th in the West, 6.5 games behind first place Utah. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 7-5 on the road. They are 4-2 vs Eastern Conference teams.

Marcus Smart remains out for the Celtics with the calf injury that has kept him out for the past 2 weeks. Romeo Langford has yet to take the court as he rehabs from off season wrist surgery and remains out today. Daniel Theis left Sunday’s game with a finger sprain and although he was cleared to return to the game, he has been ruled out for this game.

For the Nuggets, Will Barton III (personal), PJ Dozier (hamstring), Gary Harris (adductor), Greg Whittington (knee) all missed the Nuggets game against the Lakers and will miss this game as well. Paul Millsap left that game with a knee injury and will miss this game. Monte Morris is questionable with a shoulder injury.

I’ve included the same starting lineup that Brad has used for the past two games with Thompson filling in for Theis. With the way the team has played the last two games, he may opt to change things around again. I am guessing that Thompson move into the starting lineup, but Rob Williams may get the start instead. I’m just not sure who will start in this one.

For the Nuggets, with Paul Millsap and 4 other players out, I’m guessing that JaMychal Green may be next up to take his place in the starting lineup. Monte Morris is questionable and if he misses the game, I’m guessing that Facundo Campazzo may move up to start at the shooting guard.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Semi Ojeleye
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson

Celtics Reserves
Tremont Waters
Robert Williams III
Tacko Fall
Jeff Teague
Carsen Edwards
Aaron Nesmith
Grant Williams
Javonte Green
Payton Pritchard

Injuries
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Daniel Theis (finger) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Nuggets Starters

PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Monte Morris
SF: Michael Porter, Jr
PF: JaMychal Green
C: Nikola Jokic

Nuggets Reserves
Bol Bol
Vlatko Cancar
Facundo Campazzo
RJ Hampton
Isaiah Hartenstein
Marcus Howard
Zeke Nnaji

Injuries
Will Barton III (personal) out
PJ Dozier (hamstring) out
Gary Harris (adductor) out
Greg Whittington (knee) out
Paul Millsap (knee) out
Monte Morris (shoulder) questionable

Head Coach
Michael Malone

Key Matchups

Tristan Thompson vs Nikola Jokic
Jokic is making a case for being one of the best centers in the league. He is averaging 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He is shooting 56% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. Thompson, or whoever starts here for the Celtics, will have their hands full trying to slow Jokic down.

Kemba Walker vs Jamal Murray
Murray is averaging 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He is shooting 44% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Kemba has shown signs of getting back to his old self and it would be good to see him continue that trend in this game.

Honorable Mention
Semi Ojeleye vs Michael Porter, Jr
Porter is averaging 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. He is shooting 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. With all of Denver’s injuries, Porter may be called upon to do more and he is shooting well enough to do so.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics are 10th with a defensive rating of 110.0 but their defense has not been good for most of this season. The Nuggets have a defensive rating of 110.9, which is 16th. The Celtics average 110.1 points per game while the Nuggets average 115.5 points per game. Denver shoots 47.9% from the field while the Celtics shoot 46%. The Celtics shoot 37.9% from three while the Nuggets shoot 38% on 3 pointers. The Celtics need to get back to making defense a priority if they hope to get back to winning again.

Rebound - The Nuggets and Celtics average almost the same number of rebounds per game with the Celtics averaging 44.4 rebounds to 44.1 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. Over their last 2 games, the Celtics have lacked energy and effort and allowed 2 last place teams to outwork them. They have to be the team that wants it more and play 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. After racking up 30 assists in a big win over the Clippers, they have had 15 assists and 14 assists in two bad losses. They have to move the ball and look for the best shot and not force shots and not play hero ball.

X-Factors
Celtic Pride - The Celtics should be embarrassed by their last two losses. They should have easily won both games, but they played like their feet were stuck in mud and showed very little energy or teamwork in both of them. The Celtics need to show Celtic Pride and come out in this game with fire and play as a team. But, will they?

Injuries - The Celtics have a 2 players out and another questionable but the Nuggets have 5 players out and another questionable. The Celtics have a habit of playing down to teams that are short handed while the Nuggets proved against the Lakers that they have players who will step up when others are out.

Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating can always be 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. 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. They also have to stop looking for fouls instead of looking to score.