Preview: Boston Celtics vs Denver Nuggets
The Boston Celtics will have to continue to overcome injuries against the Denver Nuggets
The Boston Celtics return home for a matchup against the Denver Nuggets. The Celtics will continue to have to overcome their multiple injuries, and the Nuggets may be better than their sub .500 record would suggest. Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk are all expected be sidelined, and that will give the Nuggets a huge advantage in the strongest area, size.
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The Nuggets hold the second best rebound differential in the league, with the Celtics looming with the bottom dwellers of the league in that area. The Celtics were bad with Horford and Crowder in the lineup, and they are hopeless with them out of the lineup. Shooting guard Avery Bradley is currently leading the team with just over eight rebounds per game, and that tells you all you need to know about a team whose front court has been completely depleted.
The Celtics need to find a way to contain the Nuggets on the boards, particularly limiting their second chance opportunities. That being said, the Celtics will need to get their advantage elsewhere if they want a chance to win the game. The Celtics’ front court has been completely depleted, but the back court is at full strength, and Marcus Smart is already having a great impact on both ends.
If the Celtics can find a way to contain the front court duo of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, they will also have to contend with the rookie Jaylen Brown taking the most difficult matchup of the game against Danilo Gallinari. The Celtics certainly have matchup issues in this one and the Celtics need to contain the Nuggets in those areas, so they can take over where they are strong.
One area the Celtics haver a distinct advantage is defending second year guard Emmanuel Mudiay. The young guard has struggled as a shooter and with Bradley and Smart both looking to exploit that weakness, they should be able to disrupt anything he tries to do. The back court defense needs to force him into mistakes and get the Celtics running in transition. If they can get the disruption they are capable of and generate a high volume of turnovers, that should be enough to make up for any front court problems.
The success of the small ball lineup will also be very telling. The Nuggets will try to impose their size on the Celtics, and if they are not able to get comfortable with Brown at the four and Smart at the three, then they will be forced to overcome the Nuggets’ maximum impact on the interior.
The Celtics need to be able to force the Nuggets to adjust and if they dictate the pace of the game then they should be able to secure a victory.
The Nuggets are under .500 but that record is a little deceiving. Their net rating suggests that they are a team that should be able to stay above .500, and last night’s loss is the only one that stands out. An overtime loss to the Blazers and and three point loss to the Toronto Raptors suggest something very different than their 2-3 record. That being said, they are coming off a terrible loss to the Pistons, and now they get the high energy Celtics on a back to back.
The Nuggets should not be at their very best in this game, and the Celtics will look to attack that with their regular high intensity. That should lead to plenty of mistakes from one of the youngest teams in the league, and mistakes like that are how the Celtics can run away with this one.
The Celtics have made up for their poor rebounding with some of the best three point shooting they’ve had in the Brad Stevens era. Bradley is leading the way and the back court duo of him and Isaiah Thomas should be too much for the Nuggets to account for. The Celtics need to ride their back court and they can be confident that they will overcome the front court injuries.
The Celtics have held their own through injuries so far, and have avoided any kind of real disasters. Staying above .500 during this stretch could end up making a difference in what should be an incredibly tight race in the eastern conference. Beating this Nuggets team will put them two games above .500 and that will help set them up to go on a strong run when they recover from the injuries.