Denver at Boston
Time: 7 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: BOS -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Boston Celtics are 15-5 and winners of its last two. The Celtics host the Denver Nuggets in the first half of a Friday night ESPN doubleheader as 3.5-point favorites on its home court. The over/under is set at 205 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes, and the game will tip-off at 7 PM (CST).
The Boston Celtics are clearly a better team without Kyrie Irving. Kemba Walker has stepped into the role of No. 1 scorer, and he is averaging 21.9 points and 5.1 assists in his first season as a Celtic. Jayson Tatum, too, has stepped it up in his third season. The former Duke swingman is averaging 21 points and seven rebounds per game. And if that was not enough, Jaylen Brown has taken on a much bigger scoring role in averaging just under 20 points per game. Adding to this trio, Gordon Hayward is progressing well from his surgery and should be back in the lineup soon. The C’s are locked and loaded and absolute contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Boston averages 110.8 points per game this season while continuing to play its tough brand of defense. The team shoots 44 percent from the floor and 35.1 percent on threes (35.1 attempts per game). Boston also is still waiting for eventual-starting center Enes Kanter to round into shape following an injury to starting the season. Daniel Theis has performed admirably in his absence, but Kanter will bring a scoring punch to the 5-spot that Theis and Robert Williams III cannot.
Marcus Smart continues to function well as a jack-of-all-trades sixth man, or a “stretch-6” as he called himself in the preseason. Smart is averaging 11.9 points and 4.7 assists per game and can provide defense at all positions. The Celtics depth is functional— in the sense that its backups provide different looks and strengths than its starters. Carsen Edwards has looked good in limited minutes and will be a solid backup for Walker for the first three seasons of his NBA career. The Celtics just have a lot going on, and even without Hayward and Kanter, this team has rolled to a .750 winning percentage thus far.
Denver is beginning to hit stride, despite losing two of its last three games. The Nuggets are 14-5 on the season and 8-3 on the road where it takes on the Boston Celtics tonight.
With the decline of the Golden State Warriors, many chose the Nuggets as the de facto heirs to the throne. Two straight losses after its 3-0 start have led to some doubts in that regard, and Nikola Jokic has started both slow and out of shape, though his production overall is still rather good.
Jokic is averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, the latter two of which lead the team. Jamal Murray is the top scorer at 18.5 points per game, and he ranks No. 2 in assists at 4.8 per.
No Nuggets starters have a PER over 20. Second-year forward Michael Porter Jr. is being eased into NBA action, having appeared in just six games thus far for a total of under 60 minutes of action… Porter battled a variety of injuries his first pro season, but he looked good in his NBA debut, scoring 15 points and grabbing four boards in 21 minutes. He is averaging just 2.6 points per game though, having appeared in only 11 contests thus far.
If healthy, Porter could replace Paul Millsap at the 4-spot sooner than later. Millsap is rapidly declining, though he does “still have his nights.” The veteran is averaging just 26 minutes a game while tallying 13.7 points and six boards per contest. Once a dynamic two-way talent, Millsap’s declination has been somewhat accelerated by his lack of size for his position.
Shooting guard Gary Harris has been a gem defensively for the Nuggets but his offense has trailed behind, averaging just under 11 points per game despite playing the second-most minutes per game on the team (31.7). The Nuggets will likely seek to accelerate the pace of this game to push Orlando into an uncomfortable situation given its lack of scoring power.
Though Denver ranks No. 21 on the season in scoring, it is, of course, a far more potent team than that and it will show with greater sample size. The Nuggets are also No. 30 in scoring defense, allowing 101.4 per game. While that likely will not improve drastically, the team should score more to build a positive win differential over the course of the 2019-20 season. Even right now, the Nuggets are still +5.9 on point differential, and the team is still not really living up to its potential despite a .700 win percentage. This is the team that, on paper at least, should emerge from the Western Conference in June.