Swinging Johnson - NBA Record (1-2, -4.5 units)
*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.
Boston Celtics (28-24 SU, 22-27-4 ATS)
Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge is at a crossroads both this season and going forward. The moment All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a season ending injury it was all but a foregone conclusion that the Green would be lucky to be first round fodder for a top seed like Miami or Chicago in the postseason. But a funny thing happened. The Celtics went on a tear and are now 8-1 since Rondo went on the DL and instead of blowing this team up by dealing aging stars Garnett and/or Pierce for a young gun with a big upside, Ainge has to be wondering if this team has the ability to make one last shot at an NBA title. We will know soon enough which direction he chooses as the trade deadline is fast approaching.
The Celtics may have been the only team in the league that wasn't looking forward to the midway break in the season. They were on a roll even though they lost 1st round draft pick Jared Sullinger to back surgery at about the same time Rondo was scheduled for a date with the scalpel. Then a few games ago shooting guard Leandro Barbosa caught the injury bug and sustained a torn ACL. The Celtics trainer's room looks like a MASH unit but they keep rolling.
Despite a woeful shooting performance against the Chicago Bulls, the Green nevertheless secured a 71-69 victory before the break. Their defense has certainly tightened up during their current winning streak (currently ranked 10th) but their offense (ranked 18th) is only scoring exactly what their defense is allowing, 95.8 points per game. But rebounds have been hard to come by for Boston, averaging only 40 boards per contest which places them 29th in the league.
Denver Nuggets (33-21 SU, 32-22 ATS)
The Nuggets were unrepresented at the All-Star game despite averaging 105.1 points per game, ranking them third in the NBA. Unlike the Celtics, the Nuggets were welcoming the break after dropping three straight and losing two of their key players to illness and injury over the past two games. But it appears both players, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, will be back in uniform for tonight's game.
However, it should be noted that before the mini-slump occurred Denver had rattled off nine-straight victories but then came the 118-114 triple-overtime loss to the Celtics in Boston. That clearly took the wind out of their sails and not so coincidentally both teams lost their next game.
The Nuggets do a lot of things right but defense is not one of their strong suits. They are a powerful team in transition but their game plan is focused around beating the other team down the floor. They realize they have plenty of ammunition when it comes to putting the rock in the hole and are content to win shootouts as opposed to playing pressing defense (currently ranked 26th).
The NBA odds boards first opened Denver at -7.5, but that line was quickly bet up to -8. The total has also seen slight movement, as it now sits at 203 after opening slightly lower.
Personally I don't think this Celtics team has the wherewithal to go the distance without an infusion of young talent. While the injury to Rondo may have forced head coach Doc Rivers into a more team oriented scheme which has produced positive results, the loss of Sullinger and now Barbosa will deplete a bench that is earnestly needed to spell Garnett and Pierce.
Denver has owned the Celtics at the Pepsi Center, defeating Boston in their past three trips and seven of their last eight. Add to this that the Nuggets should be getting Gallinari and Iguodala back in uniform and Boston has to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow to take on the Lakers. If you don't know what the Celtics are thinking just read this quote from Garnett regarding tonight's game.
"In the back of my mind you have Denver Tuesday, Lakers Wednesday," Garnett told the team's official website. "I was just thinking about the schedule and having to face these teams second half.
"Mentally you have to be ready for Denver. Their pace is incredible, especially when they're at home. They're 22-3 at home."
My sentiments exactly Kevin.
NBA Picks: Play Denver -8 for 3 units at Bookmaker.com