The new look Denver Nuggets began the post-Carmelo era in fine fashion but tonight it’s the Celtics

Playing without their new Knick-mates, they tamed the Grizzlies, 120-107, in front of an appreciative home crowd on Tuesday night. 

While Carmelo Anthony may have been the big name dealt to the Knicks for a slew of players and some choice draft picks, the sentimental favorite leaving the Mile High City was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups.  “Mr. Rojan RondoBig Shot”, a five-time NBA All-Star, will join Carmelo in New York but his heart will remain in Denver.  However, tonight the Denver fans will get an opportunity to see the rebuilt Denver Nuggets tip off against one of the league’s best.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics (41-14 SU, 26-26-3 ATS) watched their Atlantic division rivals, the New York Knicks, get an overhaul courtesy of the Nuggets but the front office didn’t appear concerned enough to pull the trigger on any deals of their own. 

The Celtics have compiled a 41-14 record and coach Doc Rivers seems content that general manager Danny Ainge has stayed the course and not responded to the Knicks sudden improvement with a big deal of his own.  The only help the Celtics are looking for as the trade deadline approaches is a replacement for the injured Marquis Daniels, who is nursing a bruised spinal cord and unable to take the floor for the foreseeable future.  Meanwhile, the Celtics returned from the All-Star break with their four All-Stars intact and delivered a 22 point throttling of the Golden State Warriors.  It was a decisive victory and a tremendous way to start their 4 game western road swing. 

Although the Celtics are clearly one of the most talented teams in the league, they have also overcome a plethora of injuries this season.  The injury bug continues to plague the Shamrocks primarily at the center spot with Jermaine O’Neal sidelined until the end of the regular season, Shaquille nursing a nagging Achilles injury and doubtful for Thursday night’s game while even Kendrick Perkins appears doubtful with a strained MCL. 

Arron AfflaloThat leaves 4th stringer Semih Erden to pick up the slack and even he has recently missed time with a strained muscle.  Big Baby Glen Davis will no doubt move to the post but that will force Pierce and Garnett to play more minutes as they can no longer count on Super Sub Marquis Daniels to spell them when Davis is playing in the paint. 

Stats and Rankings

Thursday night’s game is a contest featuring diametrically opposed teams.  The Celtics have a suffocating defense, averaging 91.2 points per game good for 1st in the league but have even improved upon that recently, allowing only 88.1 ppg over their last fifteen games. 

The Nuggets, on the other hand, don’t concern themselves too much with defense, ranked 25th in the league allowing over 105 ppg but they certainly have no problems putting the rock in the hole as they rank 1st in the NBA with a 107.8 average.  Boston won the only game played between the two clubs this season back in December with a 105-89 decision in front of the Celtic faithful. 

Though the Celts have won 3 of their last four by an average of over 22 points, the Nuggets have won five of their last six games against Boston at home.  Although it may take a while for the new look Nuggets to gel, I believe the momentum from a decisive victory over Memphis without Carmelo and company will be just what Denver needs to carry them over the Green on Thursday. 

The Celtics are dealing with injuries in the post which will allow the Nuggets to clean the glass and score points from their dominance down low.  This is just another game on the schedule for the Celtics but the Nuggets will welcome their new teammates for the first time and be looking to prove that a solid team is better than a sulking superstar.  Play Denver +4. This play is also backed by John Ryan and his handicapping model, check his take on the game here.