An interconference battle between two of the NBA’s top defensive teams so far will a highlight of the league’s schedule today, as the 6-3 Boston Celtics visit the 8-1 Denver Nuggets (9pm ET Monday).
Boston was expected to be one of the top few teams in the league this year. While the Celtics have been pretty good, they have yet to find their groove offensively.
The Nuggets have been playing excellent basketball on both sides of the floor, especially on defense. They don’t have a particularly defensive-minded roster, so a lot of credit goes to the team and its coaching staff for the hot start.
Let’s preview this marquee matchup by asking some important defining questions for the game. Then, we will recommend how you should bet on the game with our Boston Celtics vs Denver Nuggets predictions for the U.S. sports betting companies’ spread and over/under.
Will Celtics Find Ways to Exploit Nuggets’ Defense?
In one of the most surprising developments around the league, Denver is third in the entire league in defensive efficiency. Last year, the Nuggets ranked 25th in the same statistic despite having a very similar roster.
The Nuggets are defending pick-and-rolls much more aggressively, having their big men trap ball-handlers and trusting other defenders to scramble to help on the offensive players off the ball. Denver ranks third in the NBA in steals per game (9.4) with this aggressive approach.
This approach is a new one for Denver, so the Nuggets are likely just catching teams off guard for now. A good coach like the Celtics’ Brad Stevens could be just the person to figure out how to exploit the Nuggets’ overachieving defense.
Can Al Horford Limit Nikola Jokic Near the Basket?
Jokic has been one of the NBA’s top players so far. Per 36 minutes, the Nuggets center has put up averages of 21.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 9.3 assists. He is dominating opponents with his playmaking, shooting and rebounding.
Horford is arguably the most versatile big man in the NBA. However, he is a bit undersized and is not a great rebounder. His ability to contain Jokic on both ends of the floor and on the boards without fouling will be a major factor in this game.
The Celtics should have the length, athleticism and skill to contain the Nuggets’ guards and Paul Millsap. However, if Jokic is having a particularly good night against Horford and requires double teams, the Nuggets will be in great position to win.
Will Any of the Celtics’ Starters Step Up as an Offensive Star?
The Celtics are 6-3, but they haven’t played well at all on the offensive end. Of the team’s regular players, only sixth man Marcus Morris has really played at or better than expectations on that end of the floor (15.7 points on a 52.7/53.3/86.4 shooting slash).
The starters, though, have combined for a very pedestrian shooting slash of 41.5/34.1/75.7. Theoretically, the lineup of Kyrie Irving/Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum/Gordon Hayward/Al Horford should be terrorizing teams with its offensive versatility and shooting, but that is not happening.
If one of those starters explodes for a star performance (which hasn’t happened hardly at all so far this season), that can help his teammates thrive off the defensive attention he draws.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions
The Nuggets have been better than the Celtics thus far this season. There is not really any debating that fact. However, I see the Celtics as a more athletic and versatile team with great coaching that is very close to taking off. They were on a four-game winning streak all versus solid teams before a heartbreaking road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
I think Boston will be able to figure out Denver’s overachieving defense and find some success on offense. These are our Celtics vs Nuggets predictions against the sportsbooks:
- Denver is a 2.5-point favorite with all major sportsbooks. The first of our picks is to bet on the Celtics +2.5 @ -110 with Intertops, Bookmaker or BetOnline. It is -115 with Bovada.
- The posted betting lines show a lot of confidence that the Nuggets’ elite defense will sustain and the Celtics won’t get their offense going. I don’t believe that will be the case. I recommend betting the over 206.5 total points being scored @ -110 with BetOnline or Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.