Nuggets at Celtics preview: Your tank looks a little different than I expected

Pssst ... it's hard to tank. -Brad Stevens - Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The "tanking" Boston Celtics are leading their division. In other news ... the NBA Eastern Conference is horrible.

Game 19: 2013-2014 NBA Season
@
11-7 (5-5 road)
Series 0-0
8-12 (4-5 home)
December 6th, 2013
TD Garden - Boston, Massachusetts
5:30 PM MT
Altitude 2 / ESPN / 950 AM
Starters
Ty Lawson PG Jordan Crawford
Randy Foye SG Avery Bradley
Wilson Chandler SF Jeff Green
Kenneth Faried PF Brandon Bass
J.J. Hickson C Jared Sullinger
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Celtics Blog
Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (stress fracture, leg) are both out Injuries Rajon Rondo (ACL) is out
Nuggets look to win in Boston for the first time since 2009
Stat Celtics are leading the Atlantic Division at 8-12

At 8-12 the Boston Celtics are leading the Atlantic Division by a half game over the Philadelphia 76ers. Sit back, have a drink, and ponder this for an extended period. Then, when done pondering, try not to use a cordless power drill to bore a hole into your skull.

The Eastern Conference is atrocious.

The narrative before the season began was that, despite Boston General Manager Danny Ainge protesting to the contrary, the Celtics were indeed "tanking". It seemed to make sense. They hired first-time professional coach Brad Stevens (former Butler University coach) and had chucked away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets in exchange for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans and some draft picks. Add in the fact that no one knew (still doesn't) when Rajon Rondo would be back and you have the perfect recipe for some tank-pie.

I don't think anyone thought the East was going to be THIS bad coming into the season. The poor play of just about everyone in the conference has, perversely, made some team that planned to take the year off appear better than they actually are. Perfect example of this would be the second place team in the division: Philadelphia. It's hard to tank when everyone else has the same motivation.

Brad Stevens, favorite of the analytics crowd, has been rolling along fine this year it seems. Coaching the "hand he has been dealt" and seems to have reached many players. Perennial chucker Jordan Crawford (what is it with guys named Crawford and chucking shots?) has played very well, at times. Very Crawford-esque. Jeff Green seems to be the current veteran centerpiece of this particular version of the Celtics (with Rondo out), and is playing well at the moment (16.8 points, 4.5 rebounds).

You can't mention the Celtics without talking about Denver Stiffs' commenter favorite, the one and only Jared Sullinger. The undersized center is averaging 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. This is one matchup so far this early season where J.J. Hickson isn't at a height disadvantage.

Overall, not much to say about the Celtics. Tanking isn't easy, and sometimes it happens during a season where everyone else had the same plan (aside from the Knicks and the Nets, who are just incompetent). You can see, with a good coach like Stevens, how a big time difference making player would help. The Celtics are a well coached team that is just talent deficient at the moment. This makes for a very dangerous matchup for the Nuggets.

Nuggets of wisdom

The Nuggets managed to sleepwalk through a disappointing loss to the chirpy Cleveland Cavaliers. It was most definitely a schedule loss, but it was also a bit disturbing to watch the issues that keep plaguing Kenneth Faried get exposed so blatantly. Those issues being that when a person hustles just as much as Faried (ie: works as hard, like Tristan Thompson did) the Manimal struggles. Faried's lack of boxing out and defensive fundamentals can't be hidden when someone is just as tenacious as he is. Being critical of Faried is a sticky wicket. I just believe he MUST work on his fundamentals in order to take the next step.

Also, Wilson Chandler, now would be about the right time to have your best game in a couple weeks. Just sayin'.

J.J. Hickson was also an issue (getting bullied on the boards), as well as the Nuggets poor shooting. The team just needs to keep consistent effort at all times. Work hard and remember that it's important to never take teams lightly. This road trip needs to get back on track in a place the Nuggets have historically struggled to win.

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