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Celtics (41-14) at Golden State (33-25)
Game Time: 10:30 PM, Pepsi Center. TV: TNT Radio: WEEI
Boston: Paul Pierce (18.9 ppg) Denver: Nene (15 ppg)
Boston: Kevin Garnett (9.1 rpg) Denver: Nene (7.1 rpg)
Boston: Rajon Rondo (12.3 apg) Denver: Ty Lawson (3.8 apg)
Who'll go off: Ray Allen
Ray just loves playing against the Nuggets. His career average against Denver is 24.9 ppg. He averages 23.5 ppg in their building. In three games in Denver since joining the C's, Ray has scored 25, 26 and 20 points. Denver has never really played any defense, but it's about to get worse with a completely revamped team. Look for Ray to take advantage of all the confusion caused by Rajon Rondo and drill shot after shot.
Who needs to be stopped: JR Smith (providing he plays. He's questionable with a right leg injury)
JR Smith has the ability to go off, even though it's a bit infrequent. With Melo gone, "JR Swish" might try to go into takeover mode. He's never been shy about shooting, so if the C's can frustrate him early, he might just keep gunning and neutralize Nene and anyone else on the floor. Last year, he chucked 11 3's in 27 minutes up against the C's in Denver. They won that game, but mainly because Melo and Chauncey combined for 49 and 15 assists. They're not around to bail him out this time.
C's will lose if: Anyone gets into foul trouble
The Celtics have nine guys available tonight (including the signing of Chris Johnson) after the three separate trades that rocked our worlds. Big Baby is going to start at center, leaving Von Wafer, Avery Bradley and Delonte West as the bench. Any foul trouble will kill this team. I shudder to think at Chris Johnson being forced to play big minutes after being with the team for about an hour.
Miscellany: The Nuggets are first in the league in scoring and third in pace. They are 23rd in defensive rating, making them one of the best offensive, and worst defensive teams in the league. Denver is 23-7 at home. The Celtics are 16-9 on the road.
Prediction: This originally was looking like a blowout for the C's. But now it's going to be tough. The C's starters are going to have to play big minutes. They still have the talent to get by the Nuggets… but I'm not going to bank on it. I hope the guys come together and gut one out… but I'm guessing its much more likely that they'll be deflated from an emotional day, lay an egg, and lose big.