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Preview: Nuggets look to extend winning streak against Celtics

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The Nuggets lost their first matchup with the Celtics, but look to push their winning streak to four games against one of the best teams in the league.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets have a big game tonight against the Celtics, who own the top record in the Eastern Conference.

Denver is riding a three-game winning streak, and will travel after the game to San Antonio for a back-to-back, their second game this month against the Spurs, with the first also coming on the second night of a back-to-back (thanks a lot, league schedulers). Pick up a win tonight, and that could give them the boost they need to win that second game as well.

Will Jamal Murray be able to outplay the guard that Denver was rumored to be interested in acquiring in the offseason? Time to show fans why the organization said no to a Kyrie Irving trade by winning that matchup and winning the game.

The Basics

Who: Boston Celtics (35-15, 17-7 away) vs Denver Nuggets (26-23, 19-6 home)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch/listen: NBATV, Altitude, 950 AM

Rival blog: Celtics Blog (that’s some strong SEO)

Lineups

Position Boston Celtics Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG
Kyrie Irving
Jamal Murray
Celtics
SG
Jaylen Brown
Gary Harris
Nuggets
SF
Jayson Tatum
Will Barton
Nuggets
PF
Al Horford
Nikola Jokic
Even
C
Aaron Baynes
Mason Plumlee
Nuggets
Bench
Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Shane Larkin, Daniel Theis
Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Wilson Chandler, Trey Lyles
Nuggets

Injury Report: Marcus Smart (out), Guerschon Yabusele (out), Terry Rozier (day-to-day); Paul Millsap (out), Tyler Lydon (too perfect, out), Wilson Chandler (day-to-day)

Three Things to Watch For

The return of Jokic ball. The Celtics plan to beat opponents is pretty straightforward: don’t let the other team score more than 102 points per game, and grind out more than 102 points per game. They have a great defense, anchored by Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown, and they make life hell for other teams with their communication, athleticism, and scheme.

For the Nuggets, they’ve scrapped most of their playbook in an attempt to reclaim their offense from last season. That means less plays with Mason Plumlee initiating the offense, which allows him to live near the basket and save energy for defense, which is where he is best able to play to his strengths. Jamal Murray may need to have another 30 point game for Denver to win tonight, because points are going to be tough to come by.

What’s up with Torrey Craig? Craig started against Dallas, with Murray benched due to a team rules violation that wasn’t disclosed. However, with a two-way contract, he has 45 days he can spend with the Nuggets before he has to return to the G League. Those 45 days are up, unless the organization has been pulling some chicanery to technically send him down on days they weren’t playing, but that would require him not practicing with the team, or travelling .... it gets messy.

It would be sweet if the NBA league offices ignored the Nuggets as much as the national media does, and Craig doesn’t attract a lot of national attention. We’re just curious to see if the Nuggets will find a way to keep one of the few guys that plays like winning actually means something to him or if they’ll have to send him back to the G League.

Let’s nip any bull$#!% about “hating” Mason Plumlee right in the bud. I don’t speak for all of Denver Stiffs, but if anyone - fans, Nuggets staff, Jesus Christ himself - think that me or anyone else here at this blog hate Mason Plumlee, you’ve got to check yourself. This is an irresponsible claim.

I’ll speak for myself personally. I react to things as a fan - I get high when the Nuggets are high, I get low when the Nuggets are low. I am thrilled when Plumlee does well, and I’m bummed when he does poorly. When he goes to the free throw line, I put my hands over my face - not because I hate him, because he’s shooting 41 percent. Do I tease him because his skin turns redder than a tomato after he plays five minutes? Yes. Do I tease most of the people I care about? Ask the other writers (the answer is yes).

When we write articles complaining about his fit in the starting lineup next to Nikola Jokic, those complaints are supported by statistics. We are making factual statements, and facts do not care about your feelings. This isn’t because we hate Plumlee - trust me, I would much rather see the team do great all the time - we are just trying to explain what we’re seeing.

I will try to be more supportive of Plumlee, but if you think I’m going to butter his buns because Malone thinks I hate his backup/starting center, you’re mistaken. I try to write about the Nuggets from the perspective of a fan — that’s going to mean praise and criticism. I treat being a Nuggets fan like being part of a family, and we are honest with the ones we love. I’m sorry if my Plumlee coverage has felt like vitriol, and I’ll try to be more fair in the future.

I’ll be hoping Plumlee goes for 15 and 12 tonight, makes Baynes look like a tiny man, and the Nuggets win by 27. That’s not what my prediction will be.

Prediction

Celtics 111 - Nuggets 108.