Game Preview: What to Expect in the Nuggets Game Against Boston

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The Boston Celtics enter Monday’s game at the Nuggets with the second-best record in the NBA, and tops in the Eastern Conference. But they are limping into town with losses in five of their last six games.

Still, this is a big challenge for the Nuggets, who, at 19-6, are one of the NBA’s best home teams. They lost a high-scoring affair, 124-118, in Boston back on Dec. 13.

Now, they will try and even the score.

This matchup will have a vastly different look. Nikola Jokić and Will Barton did not play in the first meeting for the Nuggets. Al Horford and Marcus Morris did not play in the first meeting for the Celtics. All of those players are in for tonight’s game.

The Nuggets enter the game on a three-game winning streak. It is the last game in a current five game homestand in which the Nuggets are 3-1, and it is the first of back-to-back games, which ends in San Antonio on Tuesday night.

So, what do the Nuggets need to do to give themselves a good chance to win? Start with these things…

Get physical with Kyrie. In space, there may be no player better than Kyrie Irving. The Celtics point guard is as quick and crafty with the basketball as there is in the NBA. So, how do the Nuggets slow him down? Close down his space and force him to play through contact the majority of the night. “Being into him early, making the game as physical as possible,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It will be a heck of a challenge.”

Hold down the supporting cast. Kyrie Irving scored 33 points in the Celtics win over the Nuggets in Boston on Dec. 13, but ask coach Michael Malone what hurt most, and he’ll tell you without hesitation, the supporting cast. Shane Larkin’s 14 points. Aron Baynes’ 17 points. Jaylen Brown’s 26 points – one off of his career high. “In my opinion, that’s why we lost the game up in Boston,” Malone said.

Make the Celtics play offense. A large chunk of the Celtics points – 26 of them – came from Nuggets turnovers. That allowed the Celtics to get out in transition a lot, and kept their half court possessions down. The Nuggets can’t allow easy points. Boston enters this game struggling on offense this month. The Nuggets have to make them earn as many of their points as possible.

INJURY REPORT: Wilson Chandler (illness) is questionable for the game. Paul Millsap (wrist) is out.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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