Taylor’s tickets for the triumph: Boston Celtics – Denver Nuggets

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Both Boston Celtics and Denver nuggets head into Friday’s contest with an 8-3 record, but only one will come away 9-3. Two teams with dreams of championship contention, both with their own MVP-level talent to fall back on during tough times.

We are going to witness a battle. A fun display of elite-level basketball between inter-conference foes who are both looking to keep their momentum going. As such, things are likely to go to the wire unless one of the teams lays a chicken egg, which is always possible.

Still, as usual, it’s worth looking at some areas the Celtics can attack or need to be wary of. Here are my 3 tickets to victory for Friday’s game against the Nuggets.

Hammer the rim

Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

No NBA team allows a higher pass rate around the rim than the Nuggets, conceding 76.1% of attempts in their own restricted area. The Celtics are 10th in the league in field goal percentage from the restricted area this season, converting 67.4% of their attempts, so yeah, attacking the rim seems like a smart option.

Of course, to be successful in the paint, you must enter with confidence, whether through workouts, screens, cuts, or post-ups. It doesn’t matter how the Celtics approach the ball in the paint, as long as they are committed to doing so. However, Malcolm Brogdon’s absence from the bench is going to be felt, especially in a game where penetrating the dribble is likely to be a bonus.

We could see Joe Mazzulla redeploy a delayed cut plan, or have the Celtics take control of the game by forcing Denver to play at an unfamiliar pace, which would limit Jokic’s ability to function as a drop defender.

Win the Perimeter Battle

Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

There’s a reason the Nuggets rank 29th in the league in workouts per game, and it’s because they light teams from the perimeter. Denver currently ranks 1st in the league in shooting percentage on 3s without a corner, coming in at 40.5% of them, while they’re 2nd in 3s, losing 47.2% of their looks .

So, the Celtics will have to be at their best when navigating screens, shutting down shooters, and switching during actions, or Denver is going to punish every late contest or missed rotation. Boston currently ranks 14th in keeping 3 “over the break” and 19th in defending corners.

Still, we’re talking about a core Celtics that boasted the best defense in the NBA last season, so hopefully playing a Denver-level team will spark some kind of renewed intensity on the defensive side of the court.

Trust Payton Pritchard

Detroit Pistons vs. Boston Celtics

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With Malcolm Brogdon ruled out of Friday’s game with a hamstring issue, we’ll likely see a significant increase in playing time for Payton Pritchard. Granted, this season the third-year guard has seemed a little off in terms of perimeter shooting and play, but that’s to be expected given his limited role in the rotation.

If you can present Pritchard in some early action – like what Mazzulla seems to be doing for Sam Hauser – then you can build confidence in him and get him to play the brand of basketball we saw from him during the NBA Finals run last season.

Because, if you can get Pritchard and Hauser to function as off-the-ball shooting threats, with Tatum and Brown playing at an elite level, the Nuggets will struggle to keep pace with Boston’s offense, and that is going to be an important key in creating a cushion for when they have an inevitable period of stagnation.

Final Thoughts

The Celtics and Nuggets like to let their shots fly deep, but they use different styles of play to generate those shot attempts. Boston likes to attack by drive-and-kick while looking for the extra pass, while the Nuggets perform scouting action and rely on solid movement with Jokic’s elite passes.

Whichever team is able to implement their will, in terms of generating their favorite 3-point shots, they will likely have the advantage throughout tonight’s game, and I expect the contest is approaching a record in terms of 3 attempts in a match.

Prediction: Boston wins a tight one.

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