The Celtics host the Denver Nuggets in their second straight home game. The Nuggets are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game road trip. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will play one more time on New Year’s Day (January 1) in Denver, where the Nuggets have a very unique mile high home court advantage.
The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Nuggets have lost the last 3 games they played in Boston. The Celtics have won 5 straight against the Nuggets and 7 of their last 10 meetings. The Nuggets last win against the Celtics came on November 22, 2019. The Celtics are 57-39 overall all time against the Nuggets and they are 37-9 all time at home.
This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics. They will travel to Detroit for a rematch with the Pistons on Saturday. The Celtics are 2-0 so far on the first night of back to back games and they are 1-0 when the game was played at home. The Celtics are 4-1 at home while the Nuggets are 4-3 on the road. Both teams are come in on 4 game win streaks. The Celtics are 1-0 vs the West while the Nuggets are 1-0 vs the East.
The Celtics continue to be without Robert Williams III (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (knee). They will also be without Malcolm Brogdon, who left Wednesday’s game with tightness in his hamstring. Derrick White and Payton Pritchard will likely see more minutes due to his absence. I’m guessing that Grant Williams will start once more and White will come off the bench to lead the second unit. Ish Smith (calf) will miss his 5th straight game for the Nuggets.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Nuggets Starters
- Jamal Murray Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
- Michael Porter, Jr Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
- Aaron Gordon Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
- C: Nikola Jokic Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
2 Way Players
Ish Smith (calf) out
Collin Gillespie (leg) out
Al Horford vs Nikola Jokic
Jokic is has won back to back MVP’s for a reason. He is averaging 21.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 59.6% from the field and just 25% from beyond the arc. He has led his team in points, rebounds and assists 85 times, which is the most by any center in NBA history. He is a handful and the Celtics need to try to slow him down by any means necessary.
Jayson Tatum vs Michael Porter, Jr
Porter is averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He is shooting 48.9% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc. Tatum has been playing at a very high level on both ends of the court and the Celtics are going to need him to continue that in this game to give themselves a chance to win.
Marcus Smart vs Jamal Murray
Murray is averaging 15.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He is shooting 44.1% from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart has been playing very well with 34 assists and just 4 turnovers over the past 3 games. He will need to continue to get his teammates involved along with playing his trademark tough defense on Murray.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics are 21st with a defensive rating of 112.5 The Nuggets have a defensive rating of 112.0, which is 20th. The Celtics average 118.7 points per game (2nd), while the Nuggets average 116.7 points per game (7th). The Celtics have shown flashes of playing good defense but have yet to do so consistently. They need to make defense a priority, especially against the Nuggets, who are shooting 50.1% from the field as a team and 48.3% from beyond the arc (4th) as a team.
Rebound - Rebounding is another key to winning every game. The Celtics are 22nd in the league, averaging 41.4 rebounds per game. The Nuggets are 9th in the league with 45.5 rebounds per game. 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 because the Nuggets are 8-0 when they out rebound their opponents and 0-3 when they are out-rebounded.
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. 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.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to keep moving the ball to find the open man and make it much harder to guard them. However, they have to be careful with their passes and not turn the ball over as the Nuggets average 18.6 points per game off turnovers. The Celtics also need to be careful when they dribble the ball and not drive into a crowd and turn the ball over.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again home and they should get a boost from the home crowd. This is their second straight home game so they have the benefit of not having to travel also. The Nuggets are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game road trip and may be getting road weary. They have the distactions of travel, staying in hotels, and playing in front of a hostile crowd.
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 refs seem to be quick to call techs and assorted odd infractions this season. 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.