Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets
|Date & Time||Friday November 22, 2019, 9:00 PM (EST)|
Denver -4.5; Total 206
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The top team in the Eastern Conference will face the second-place team in the West on Friday when the Boston Celtics (11-3) travel to the Pepsi Center to face the Denver Nuggets (10-3). The game will mark the fifth and final game of Boston’s longest road trip of the season that the Celtics have gone 2-2 on so far.
It was less than a week ago that Boston sat atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 10-1 record and all looked well for the green and white. But along the way, Gordon Hayward broke his hand and this five-game road trip started, and all of a sudden Boston has lost two of three and heading to one of the best home-court advantages in basketball in Denver and its mile-high elevation.
The Celtics have hardly shown the dominance on this that they showed in their first 10 games, a stretch of games that Boston won nine by an average of nearly 12 points per game including impressive road wins over the Knicks (118-95), the Hornets (108-87), and the Spurs (135-115). On this road trip, however, the Celtics could only muster a 5-point win over lowly Golden State before dropping a one-point loss to Sacramento. Boston went on for its best game of the trip, a 99-85 win at Phoenix, before suffering a 107-104 thrilling overtime loss to the Clippers.
That loss was Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s first game together, but Boston did nothing to help itself. The Celtics went 1-of-18 from 3-point range in the first half but still led by two at the half. Then Boston got hot from long range, hitting seven 3-pointers in the third quarter for a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But despite leading by 10 with 6:15 to go in the game and by seven points with just 2:21 remaining, the Celtics couldn’t close the door on the Clippers.
There was plenty of good, of course, in a close game against such great opposition. The bigs were great, out-rebounding Montrezl Harrell and the Clippers 52-32, and Jayson Tatum was lights out, scoring 30 points on 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Marcus Smart added 15 points and eight assists without a turnover, and Kemba Walker scored 13 points on an awful shooting night (4-of-17 from the field). However, four of the five starters played at least 39 minutes which doesn’t bode well at the end of the long road trip heading into the elevation of Denver.
Walker and Tatum are each scoring more than 20 points per game with Walker leading the way with 22.6 points per game and Tatum adding 20.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Jaylen Brown is scoring 18.5 points with 7.2 rebounds per game, and Smart averages 12.1 points and 5.1 assists per game.
While the Celtics might be tiring at the end of their road trip, Denver is riding high after winning seven of its last games including a 10-point win over Houston on Wednesday with other victories over Miami, Philadelphia, and Minnesota in that stretch. And while Denver is not a bad offensive team, it is defense that has kept the Nuggets near the top of the Western Conference standings. Denver currently ranks third in the NBA in scoring defense at just 102.3 points per game allowed.
In the win over Houston, it was Nikola Jokic leading the way with 27 points and 12 rebounds with Will Barton adding 15 points and seven rebounds, Paul Millsap scoring 11 points with six rebounds, Jamal Murray scoring 10 points with nine assists and six steals, and Gary Harris also scoring in double figures with 10 points. But once again, it was the defense that earned the win, holding James Harden to just 27 points.
On the season, it is Murray leading the way with 18.5 points per game, followed by Jokic (17.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game), Barton (14.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game), Millsap (13.8 points per game), and Harris (10.5 points per game).
It might be easy to take Denver considering the Nuggets are at home coming off of a huge win and are well rested, compared to a Celtics team coming off of a loss played with playoff intensity heading into the final game of a five-game west coast road trip. But it’s tough to imagine giving this talented Celtics team any points, let alone 4.5. It just doesn’t make sense to give Boston that many points, just as it doesn’t make sense to take Boston at the end of a road trip.
So look at the total of 206. These are two top-10 defenses in the NBA and the pair have combined for 18 games going under the total out of 27. Few would not enjoy winning 67 percent of the time. But in this instance, the trends get even better. As a home favorite, Denver’s games have gone under five out of seven times, and Boston has only hit the over once as a road underdog in four games. It might not be the most fun way to watch a game, but take the under and cheer on these elite defense.