Celtics looking to bounce back against Nuggets

Boston Celtics (23-20) at Denver Nuggets (24-20)
Saturday, March 17
9:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #44  Road Game #20
TV:  CSNNE, SNET1, ASE,  LP 757-758 (DTV)
Radio:  WEEI,  KRWZ
Pepsi Center
Referees:  Scott Foster,  JT Orr,  Gary Zielinski 

This is the only time these two teams will meet this season.  While the Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline and have chemistry intact, the Nuggets traded their starting center, which could affect their chemistry.  It's possible that JaVale McGee could be available for tonight's game if the physicals are all completed. 

The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and won 2 in a row on this road trip before dropping one to the Kings.   While the Nuggets are 6-4 in their last 10 and lost their last game to the Thunder.  The Nuggets are 13-11 at home while the Celtics are just 7-12 on the road. 

The Celtics kept pace with the Sixers who lost to Miami and remain 1.5 games behind them for the 4th seed.  With Philly playing in Chicago tonight,  a win by the Celtics could bring them to within a half game of the Division lead.   Atlanta won, moving the Celtics from half a game back of the 6th spot to 1.5 games back.  Denver is in the 8th spot in the West in a virtual tie with Houston, who owns the tie breaker.  They are 2 ahead of Minnesota for the 9th spot. 

Fatigue could be a problem in this game after playing in Sacramento last night and flying into Denver in the wee hours of the morning.  .  But no matter how tired they are, they can't play worse than they did against the Kings.  They played no defense and couldn't stop the Kings all night long.  Their offense was also anemic, missing wide open shots and layups.   Hopefully they can get back on track and get a win in this one. 

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo  vs Ty Lawson

Shooting Guard 

Ray Allen  vs Arron Afflalo

Small Forward
Paul Pierce  vs Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward

Brandon Bass   vs  Kenneth Faried


Kevin Garnett vs Timofey Mozgov

Celtics Reserves
Mickael Pietrus
Greg Stiemsma
Keyon Dooling
Sasha Pavlovic
Marquis Daniels
Avery Bradley
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore 

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Chris Wilcox (heart)  out
Pierce (ankle) probable

Denver's Reserves
Al Harrington
Andre Miller
Kosta Koufos
Rudy Fernandez
Corey Brewer
Chris Andersen
Julyan Stone
Jordan Hamilton

New Players
JaVale McGee   (will play pending physical)
Rony Turiaf  (will play pending physical- possibly waived)



Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett vs Timofey Mozgov
With the trade of Nene at the deadline, Mozgov has been thrust into the starting lineup.  In his first game against Perk and the Thunder, Mozgov had just 2 points and 2 rebounds.  It's possible McGee may have his physical and may be given the starting nod but he would be thrust into a new system.  Either way, KG has a big advantage.  Hopefully he will take full advantage of it. 

Rajon Rondo  vs Ty Lawson
Rondo needs to control the tempo and be aggressive in getting into the paint and either scoring or kick out to an open teammate.  With the trade deadline over, Rondo should be able to fully concentrate on getting his team the win.  Rondo didn't fare very well against Isaiah Thomas in the last game.  He needs go get his focus back and take over this game.

Honorable Mention
Brandon Bass vs Kenneth Faried
Several articles lately have documented Bass' progress and improvement in the Celtics' system.  Faried is strong and very athletic and will be a handful for Bass on both ends of the court. 

Keys to the Game

Defense - I may sound like a broken record, but Defense is the key to every game.   If they come into every game with the mindset to make defense a priority, they stand a good chance of winning every one.  When they slack off on defense, it affects every part of their game.  Denver is first in the league in scoring at 103.8 points per game and third in FG% shooting 46.7%.  The Celtics are 26th in scoring at 91.3 points per game and 7th in FG% at 45.6%.  On the other side, the Celtics are 3rd in points allowed at 90.07 and 2nd, allowing teams to shoot just 42.3%.  The Nuggets allow 101.5 points per game. The Celtics played absolutely NO defense vs the Kings.  Defense will be crucial for the Celtics in this one as they won't outscore the Nuggets. 

Rebound -   Since much of rebounding is effort and desire, the effort  that the Celtics show on the boards usually indicates how much the team really wants the game.  With the Celtics short on bigs, everyone on the team needs to make rebounding a priority.   The team that wins the battle of the boards usually comes out on top because the effort needed to out rebound the other team carries across all other areas of the game.  The Nuggets are a very good rebounding team, ranking 5th with 43.6 rebounds per game.   The Celtics are still last, pulling down only 38.6 rebounds per game.  The Celtics were out rebounded 45-28 by the Kings and it showed in the final score. The Celtics have got to make an effort to crash the boards as a team. 

Be Aggressive The more aggressive team usually gets more calls  and taking the ball to the hoop usually ends in either a basket or a foul or a kick out to a wide open teammate.  The Celtics can't settle for jumpers, especially on the road.  They have to be aggressive in going to the hoop. They also must be aggressive in going after loose balls and rebounds.  Against the Kings they settled for outside shots and stood by while the Kings out hustled them to loose balls and rebounds.  The Celtics simply have to snap out of their trance and be more aggressive.   

Move the Ball- When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, they are very tough to beat.  When the ball movement slows and players try to do too much, it usually ends in a loss.   But the Celtics must be careful with their passes as the Nuggets are 5th in the league, forcing 15.9 turnovers a game.   Several times against the Kings Rondo dribbled up the court and still had the ball with 10 seconds on the clock.  They have to run and they must move the ball. 

Official Report

Scott Foster
A veteran official of 17 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,074 regular season and 80 playoff games, including seven Finals games during his career. He was a
member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. In the 2 games Celtics opponents shot 51 free throws to 40 for the Celtics. The Nuggets are 0-3 this season and also 4-6 with Foster in their last 10 games. He doesn't tend to be influenced by the home crowd with a home W/L record this season of 17-17.

JT Orr
J.T. Orr is one of four new officials for the 2011-12 NBA season. Orr’s experience includes five seasons and 177 games officiated in the D-League. He also has four seasons of NBA preseason experience and worked in NBA summer camps for nine years.
In addition to his professional experience, Orr officiated collegiate games for 11 years and has 15 years of high school officiating experience. The Celtics are 0-1 all time with Orr on the court. That loss was at Toronto and the officiating was fairly even. The Nuggets are 2-4 this season with Orr. His home W/L record is 16-14.

Gary Zielinski
Zielinski has officiated 616 regular season games and six Playoff games. In addition to his 10 seasons in the NBA, Zielinski officiated for seven seasons in the CBA and four in the WNBA. Zielinski worked the CBA Finals from 1997-2000, the CBA All-Star Game in 1995 and the WNBA Finals from 1998-2001. The Celtics are 2-1 this season with Zielinski in the court. One win was against the Pacers and the officiating was terrible. The Celtics shot 14 free throws to 31 for the Pacers and in one sequence at the end, with the Celtics ahead the refs gave the Pacers 3 shots and the ball on a bogus flagrant and technical foul on Pietrus. The other win was vs Portland. The Blazers shot 6 more free throws but the officiating wasn't bad. The loss was to the Lakers where the Lakers shot 20 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. That is not a misprint. The Celtics shot FIVE free throws for the game. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games with Zielinski on the court while the Nuggets are 2-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 20-15.

Thin Air and Fatigue
The Celtics will be playing at a higher altitude than they are used to, while the Nuggets (other than the new players just coming in) are used to it.  Hopefully it won't affect the Celtics too much.  Also, the Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games and had to travel overnight.  Fatigue could come into play as well as the altitude.