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Preview: Nuggets search for ninth straight victory against the Celtics

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Can the Nuggets extend their win streak?

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets (34-18) are welcoming the Boston Celtics (27-26) for an early 1:00 MST start on this Sunday matinee. Denver is coming off a close win in which they overcame doubled up the Spurs in the turnover department, 18-to-9. On the other hand, Boston is following an exciting victory in which they put up 145 points against the Timberwolves (including overtime). Jayson Tatum scored a career high 53 points while shooting 6-10 from three and 16-25 from the field.

Denver is 16-7 against Eastern Conference opponents while Boston is 9-12 versus the West. One of those Western Conference victories came against the Nuggets on February 16 in Boston. Nikola Jokic dropped 43 points, but it wasn’t enough as the team shot 9-34 from the three-point line and struggled defensively.

The Celtics will look a little different since the last time these two opponents faced off. They have their defensive ace Marcus Smart back, as well as an effective shot blocker in Robert Williams lll starting due to the Daniel Theis trade. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have different faces as well from Aaron Gordon to JaVale McGee.


The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (34-18, 17-9 home) vs Boston Celtics (27-26, 10-16 away)

When: 1:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival Blog: Celtics Blog

Expected Starting Lineups:

BOS: PG Kemba Walker, SG Marcus Smart, SF Jaylen Brown, SF Jayson Tatum, C Robert Williams lll

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SF Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Jamal Murray, Shaquille Harrison, Evan Fournier


Three Keys:

Rebounding

Denver seems to struggle when they are out-rebounded by their opponent. The February 16th meeting resulted in the Celtics out-rebounding the Nuggets 51-to-40. That was the only stat where the Celtics really separated themselves from the Nuggets, and it aided Boston greatly. Rebounding affects Denver on both sides of the ball because the Nuggets like to get out in transition (especially lately). They cannot do that if they do not secure the defensive rebound, so that will be a big swing factor.

Scoring of the Big Three

Hopefully Jamal Murray can come back, but if he cannot, someone will have to replace his scoring as a member of the big three. Last meeting, Michael Porter Jr. scored 0 points and the bench scored a whopping 14 points. Over their last five, the Celtics are holding opponents to 98.2 points per game, so the Nuggets will have their work cut out for them as a unit. Aaron Gordon’s ability to cut and find easy baskets will be critical, and a healthy bench should positively impact the game.

Do Not Give Their Role Players Confidence

Jaylen Brown is averaging 24.3 PPG and Jayson Tatum has 25.1 PPG. That is one of the better star duos in this league, and they do not have off nights often. Those two are going to find and get baskets wherever they can, but if the Nuggets let Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, or the bench get going, they will be in trouble. Last game, the Celtics put up 145 points and their bench scored only 19. Denver already has their hands full with Tatum and Brown, so if the Celtic role players start scoring, it will open up shots for everybody else on the team. Game plan discipline will be key.