Boston at Denver
Time: 8 PM (CT), NBA TV
Spread: DEN -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Boston Celtics have cooled as winners of just five of its last 10 overall, but the C’s still maintain a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston will travel to face the Denver Nuggets as 1-point underdogs, and the Nuggets are 19-6 at the Pepsi Center this season. The game will be televised on NBA League Pass at 8 PM (CT) and has an over/under set at 206 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Boston has lost five of its past six games, including a 109-105 defeat last game against the Golden State Warriors. Its lone win over the last two weeks was a 113-102 victory over the L.A. Clippers, but that was preceded by losses to the L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans. Boston is hardly in any sort of free-fall, but getting back on track against the Nuggets tonight must be a priority of sorts for Brad Stevens’ club. Perhaps some sort of mid-season lull is to blame, but whatever the case, Boston has allowed its past four opponents to score over 100 points, and on the season Boston limits opponents to just 98 points per game.
Kyrie Irving did go absolutely nuts in the loss to Golden State. The star point guard had 37 points and four assists while shooting 13 of 18 from the field and 5 of 6 from downtown. The problem was, that outside of Irving the C’s shot just 24 of 67 and only Jaylen Brown was respectable really with 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Even sharpshooting rookie Jayson Tatum struggled in hitting just 2 of 9 and missing all three of his triples. But that is quite an anomaly.
Tatum is shooting 45 percent from deep on the season while averaging 13 points per game as a dark horse contender for the Rookie of the Year award. He has seamlessly replaced Gordon Hayward, who the Celtics lost as their prized free agent acquisition to a broken ankle in the season opener. The Celtics have the depth to weather a loss to a top-tier All-Star talent, which is a testament both to Stevens’ coaching and the power of a defensive strategy. Boston is the only team in the East keeping opponents under 100 points per game.
The Denver Nuggets have won three-straight games, with wins over the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. Boston will represent a much tougher test tonight. The Nuggets also got the news that Tyler Lydon will miss the next four months with a knee surgery to recover from. Denver had not used Lydon but two minutes this season, but he is a prized rookie that may play a role in the future.
For the present, the Nuggets balanced attack most heavily features Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, with center Nikola Jokic acting as the playmaker and catalyst of a team that really features a half-dozen shooting guards. Harris is averaging 17.3 points per game, while Murray is good for 16.3, but just 2.8 assists despite often starting at the 1-spot. Paul Millsap has missed the majority of the season, but the Nuggets are still 5-games above .500 without their All-Star power forward. Part of that is because Trey Lyles has stepped up in a major way since departing Utah.
The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 20 minutes a game, and really seems to have found a niche and home in Denver. Less so can be said for former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay, whose days in Denver may be numbered. The former No. 8 overall pick is seeing just 18 minutes a game wand averaging just eight points and two assists per game. The Nuggets desperately need some balance with so many “combo” guards on the team, and a still-buried Malik Beasley.
Beasley, a “one-and-done” from Florida State University, is averaging just 10 minutes a game in his sophomore season, despite sky-high “potential.” In fact, “potential” still seems to be the buzzword for this Denver team, but its potential never will be realized until the team strikes some better balance in its positioning. Moreover, one must wonder if running an offense through a center (Jokic averages 5.3 assists per game) can produce optimal success in this “Era of the Guard.”