The Boston Celtics will face the Denver Nuggets tonight in the TD Garden. The Celtics are currently in the lead of an awful Atlantic division. While this isn’t where they thought they’d be at in this moment, they’re here and they’re going to try to make the best of it for as long as they can.
The playoffs may not necessarily be ideal, but that’s where they are right now. It’s more than likely that Ainge makes a move or two to dump off some productivity for either some younger talent or some expensive expirings. But here’s the thing, LOSING STINKS!
I’m not sure how Ainge could blow this team up so early in the season. And it would probably create a better situation going forward if he sold high instead of waiting until the trade deadline to start the firesale, but I just don’t see any way that he ends the Celtics run right now.
Firstly, the Atlantic division is so bad that even if Ainge makes moves they may be able to battle for the division lead. The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets are both still well within the grasp of the division lead–and they’ve got a combined nine wins through 36 games. They’re two of the worst teams in the league with two of the most expensive payrolls. Who is to say that they’ll get any better?
And, if Ainge makes a move now, what kind of message does that send to his players? Of course, they aren’t blind or deaf. They know that they aren’t supposed to be good this year; honestly, they aren’t. But at the same time, the opportunity to make the playoffs is wide open right now and players, being the competitors that they are, will want the chance to fight for a title and work for a bigger pay day. It doesn’t matter to them what their chances are or who they’re playing against.
Going forward, Ainge has some tough choices to make. But, tonight, they’ll try their luck against the Denver Nuggets. Here’s what they need to do if they want to win.
Contain Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson has easily been one of the top three point guards in the league this season. New head coach Brian Shaw has allowed given him the reigns and he’s piloting the ship nicely. Lawson has a 21.6 PER this season and is scoring 19.3 points per game with 8.2 assists on 44% shooting.
Avery Bradley will need to guard Lawson tonight in order to disrupt the Nugget’s offense. When Lawson is in with the starting unit, they don’t have another offensive initiator. Once Nate Robinson comes in, though, you want to keep the ball in his hands and attempt to contain him. He isn’t as good at getting others involved as Lawson is and you can force Robinson to shoot the Nuggets out of the game. One thing to watch for: Lawson and Robinson on the floor at the same time.
Don’t Sleep on the Bench
The Celtics are known to lack in bench production, but they’re going to have to produce against the Nuggets’ depth tonight. The Nuggets have six players who score over 10 points per game on average. On top of that, they have nine players that score over six points on average. The Celtics are going to have to rely on their bench to defend tonight and to score as well. Unfortunately, that may be asking for a bit much from them.
Stop the ball in transition
Although Brain Shaw said that he wants to make the Nuggets a better halfcourt team, they’re still mostly known for their prowess in transition. The Nuggets didn’t make enough roster changes to slow the game down this season and they’ve relied heavily on transition. Most of their offense comes from transition play; 16.2%, per Synergy Sports technology.
And according to teamrankings.com, the Nuggets score 1.9 points per possession when in transition. The Nuggets are the fourth fastest team in the league when it comes to pace according to basketball reference. They’re going to do whatever they can to get the Celtics out in transition where they allow 1.11 points per possession.
The Celtics are going to have their work cut out for them in keeping the Nuggets contained and bogging down the pace. Jordan Crawford is going to be key as the team’s point guard. It’ll be up to him to control the pace of play.