BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have quite the challenge in front of them with the Denver Nuggets in town. Both teams have won four straight, and something has to give.
With Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the way, the Nuggets have developed a pristine offensive attack. Unfortunately for Boston, they’ll have to make do without one of their top guards. Malcolm Brogdon is out due to hamstring tightness.
Head coach Joe Mazzulla said that Brogdon is “day-to-day” and should return sooner rather than later.
“Just day-to-day. Just playing it by how he goes each way. He seems to be comfortable with his rehab and will probably be back sooner than later.”
Brogdon has been an essential part of Boston’s bench. In 11 appearances this season, he’s averaged 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 47.7% shooting from the field and 36.8% shooting from distance.
As for the Nuggets, they rank fifth in offensive rating (114.6) and first in three-point percentage (42.0%). That number would put them second all-time for a single season behind only the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets (42.8%).
Mazzulla said that Grant Williams will remain in the starting lineup against Denver, noting that the forward provides them with a good start on the defensive end.
“I think it’s just, with our depth and our ability to play different ways, with the matchups we have over the next few days… Gives us a good chance to get off to a good start defensively.”
Williams has taken on the nickname “Batman” over the past year because of his ability to guard Jokic at a high level. The Nuggets superstar is the reigning two-time MVP and has averaged 21.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 9.0 assists.
According to Mazzulla, the best way to defend Jokic is to throw a bunch of different looks at him throughout the game.
“Just a matter of giving him different looks, giving him different matchups. We have great versatility… Just keeping our defensive poise and, at the same time, trying to give him different looks.”
Last season, Williams guarded Jokic for a total of 6:25 over the course of two games. He held “The Joker” to 5-of-12 shooting from the field and forced him to turn the ball over five times.
Williams’ inclusion in the starting lineup pushes Derrick White to the bench, but he won’t be the only guard coming off the pine for Boston in this one. After Brogdon exited the Celtics’ most recent game against the Celtics, Payton Pritchard earned some extended opportunities.
Mazzulla said that Pritchard is always ready, and he trusts him to make an impact whenever his number is called.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the individual. Payton is a guy that’s always going to be ready…. Just small moments of affirmation… Also, for Payton, I trust you to be ready because of your work ethic and because of your mindset.”
Tonight’s contest tips off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.