After a devastating fourth-quarter comeback by the Clippers in Los Angeles Wednesday night, the Celtics head to Denver Friday night and look to rebound against the Nuggets. The Celtics are 11-3 headed into the contest, while the Nuggets are 10-3. It looks to be an interesting matchup as the Nuggets are favored by four points. They have yet to be an underdog this season. The Celtics are 4-1 against the spread when they are the dog.
Since losing Gordon Hayward to injury, the Celtics have found new ways to score and remain just as tenacious on defense. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up their games. The Nuggets have remained healthy all season and sit just behind the Lakers in the West. The Celtics didn’t give them any help Wednesday either, as the Clippers are only a couple of games behind them.
Ratcheting It Up
The recent surge from Tatum should help Boston fill the void left by Hayward. Tatum went 5 for 10 from beyond the arc against the Clippers Wednesday night, finishing with 30 points. The game before, against Phoenix, he had 26 points and 11 boards. Tatum’s defense hasn’t gone anywhere during the offensive surge, as he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 steals per game.
Watching Kemba Walker run Brad Stephens’ offense has been a beautiful thing to see come together. Walker is off to a fantastic start, averaging 22.6 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from three and over 91 percent from the free-throw line. Marcus Smart’s contributions on both ends of the floor haven’t gone unnoticed either, as he’s averaging 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game while scoring 12.2.
The Quiet Favorite
You don’t see a lot of Denver in prime time. You don’t hear about them on any morning shows or stat shows at night, but they’ve quietly been setting the West on fire. Defensively, they rank third in the NBA in points allowed, seventh in opponents’ field-goal percentage, and fifth in opponents’ three-point percentage. The Celtics need to get inside to score in this game.
The Nuggets offense is the ultimate total team effort. Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets rank eighth in the league in assists. Murray is averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, while Jokic is putting up 17.2 points, 5.8 assists, nine boards, and 1.1 steals per game. Jokic and veteran Paul Millsap need to feast in the paint Friday.
It All Boils Down
Both of these teams are known more for defense than they are for offense. Which means for our purposes, it all boils down to offense. The Nuggets are 6-6-1 ATS when they are favored, only 3-4 at home. Boston is 4-1 ATS when it is an underdog and 3-1 ATS when it’s a road dog. Not to mention, the Celtics are much better offensively, ranking 13th in the league in points per game, compared to the Nuggets’ 23rd rank. The pick here is for Tatum to stay hot, and the Celtics to cover on the road. The over/under is set at 206.5 in the contest.