The Celtics will look to win their 7th straight game as they host the Denver Nuggets. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics will visit the Nuggets on March 20 for the 3rd game of a 4 game Western road trip. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. They are 55-37 all time against the Nuggets and 36-9 when the teams are playing in Boston.
The Celtics are 7th in the East and have won their last 6 games. They are 18-10 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 9-11 against Western Conference teams. The Celtics are 1 game behind 6th place Toronto, who have won 8 in a row. They are 2 games behind 5th place Philadelphia and 2.5 games behind 3rd place Chicago. They are also 1.5 games ahead of 8th place Brooklyn and 3 games ahead of 9th place Charlotte.
The Nuggets are in 6th place in the West and have won their last 2 games. They are 15-14 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 13-7 against Eastern Conference teams. The Western Conference isn’t as tightly seeded as the East is. The Nuggets are 1.5 games behind 5th place Dallas and 3.5 games behind 4th place Utah. They are 2.5 games ahead of 7th place Minnesota.
Both teams last played on Tuesday and both have had 2 days off. This is the first game of a 2 game road trip for Denver. It is also the first game of back to back games. They will play at Toronto on Saturday. The Celtics are playing in the first of 2 home games. They will face Atlanta at home on Sunday. They will then play at Philadelphia on Tuesday and then back to back at home vs the Pistons on Wednesday.
The Celtics were active at the trade deadline sending out Dennis Schroder, Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson, Enes Freedom, Bruno Fernando, Bol Bol, and PJ Dozier. They are bringing in Derrick White from the Spurs and former Celtic Daniel Theis from the Rockets. At this time there is no one on the injury list but also it isn’t known at this time if the trade will be finalized and if the new players will be in town and able to play. Celtics are also reportedly signing Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet to deals for the rest of the season.
The Nuggets did not make any trades at the deadline but are expected to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 3rd 10 day contract. Monte Morris is out with a concussion and I’ve listed Bones Hyland as the starter but that’s just a guess. Vlatko Cancar is out after having foot surgery. Michael Porter, Jr is out after having back surgery. Jamal Murray is out after ACL surgery. Austin Rivers is probable with a hip injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Daniel Theis (trade) questionable
Derrick White (trade) questionable
Probable Nuggets Starters
Vlatko Cancar (foot) out
Monte Morris (concussion) out
Jamal Murray (knee) out
Michael Porter, Jr. (back) out
Austin Rivers (hip) probable
Two Way Players
Robert Williams III vs Nikola Jokic
Jokic is impossible to stop but the Celtics must try to slow him down. He is averaging 25.9 points, 13.7 rebounds and 7.9 assists. He is shooting 57.8% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. He has had a triple double in 7 of his last 12 games. Robert Williams needs a big game defensively for the Celtics to have a chance in this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Will Barton
Barton is averaging 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. He is shooting 44.4% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need Jaylen Brown to continue playing like an All-Star snub on both ends of the court.
Aaron Gordon vs Jayson Tatum
Gordon is averaging 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 52.0% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need good Jayson Tatum for this game and hopefully he will be able to hit his shots.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics are 3rd with a defensive rating of 105.3 and they have turned into the defense first team that we had hoped they would. The Nuggets have a defensive rating of 110.0, which is 16th. The Celtics average 108.4 points per game while the Nuggets average 109.7 points per game. The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority.
Rebound - Rebounding is another key to winning every game. The Celtics are 3rd in the league, averaging 46.6 rebounds per game. The Nuggets are 25th in the league with 43.5 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.
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. The Celtics have been winning games with extra effort and high energy. 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.
Bench Play - In the Nuggets’ win over the Knicks on Tuesday, their bench scored 61 points. They didn’t make any moves at the deadline although they have several players out. The Celtics traded 3 key reserves in Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford. We don’t know if Theis and White will be available so the Celtics bench will be short handed for this game. The reserves who are available to play will need to step up on both ends of the court.
Trade Factor - The Celtics will be missing several players that have had key roles for the Celtics. Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson especially have been key in the Celtics recent wins. Romeo Langford has also played well in his minutes off the bench. The Celtics will be shorthanded and will have to re-figure their rotations and possibly get used to new players. Will that affect their chemistry?
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.