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Preview: Nuggets look to clinch playoff spot against Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics

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Murray and Irving face off again as Denver looks to clinch a postseason birth for the first time since 2013

NBA: Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After a successful 3-0 homestand last week, the Denver Nuggets are now back on the road for a four game trip against some of the best and worst the Eastern Conference has to offer. First on the docket is a date in Boston to take on Kyrie Irving and the Celtics - a team that hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations but is dangerous nonetheless.

Denver didn’t necessarily look to form in the last two games but still managed to scrape wins, setting the stage for what could be a monumental night. With a win, two major milestones will be reached. Denver will not only clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2012-2013 but will also surpass last year’s win total for the most in the Michael Malone era. Though it’s not a make-or-break game for the Nuggets, a lot of intangibles are on the line.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (46-22) at Boston Celtics (43-27)

When: 5:30 PM MT

Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Celtics Blog

Position
Denver
Boston
Edge
PG
Jamal Murray
Kyrie Irving
Celtics
SG
Gary Harris
Marcus Smart
Even
SF
Will Barton
Jayson Tatum
Nuggets
PF
Paul Millsap
Marcus Morris
Nuggets
C
Nikola Jokic
Al Horford
Nuggets
Bench
Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig
Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward Aron Baynes
Even

What to watch: Jamal Murray and Kyrie Irving

One of the best wins of this season came in early November at Pepsi Center, when Jamal Murray caught fire and put the Celtics away on a 48-point night. Not only did Murray go head-to-head with one of the best guards in the league and come out on top, but he caused some controversy along the way when he took a shot in attempt to get 50 points when the game was already over. Kyrie was demonstrably upset at this act of disrespect, tossing the ball into the stands and saying so in post-game interview. Needless to say, tonight’s game has been circled on calendars for months.

Irving is having a tremendous year and will have a chip on his shoulder for sure but while Murray has shown explosive flashes, consistency is still the one thing that has eluded the Nuggets guard. Still, Murray loves to show up in big moments and tonight in Boston will be the next stage for him to shine. The Nuggets are at their best when Murray is on, so he will be key for tonight’s game.

Road Warriors

For some reason, one of the narratives across the national landscape this season is that Denver is a bad road team. Sure, the Nuggets aren’t quite at the level of the other top teams in the league like Milwaukee (25-12), Golden State (23-11) or Toronto (21-14) but 16-16 in the Western Conference is far from bad. With the playoffs on the horizon, a road win against a playoff caliber team in what will certainly be a playoff atmosphere would be great experience for the Nuggets, especially during this tough stretch of the season in which they play seven of their next nine away from Pepsi Center.

Will IT get some burn?

Look, the Isaiah Thomas trial run in Denver hasn’t really worked out (and it doesn’t need to). There’s no doubt that IT has a special connection with Boston and fans will certainly want to see him play. If for some reason the game isn’t close, there’s no doubt IT will see the floor. But will Malone stick to his guns either way? Denver doesn’t owe Thomas anything, but it would be pretty cool to watch him play meaningful minutes in Boston in a big game.

Poll

Who will win the duel between Murray and Irving?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Jamal Murray
    (265 votes)
  • 51%
    Kyrie Irving
    (282 votes)
547 votes total Vote Now