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Celtics vs. Nuggets Prediction: NBA Finals Favorites Go to Battle

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published March 7, 2024
10 min read

A couple of months ago, the Denver Nuggets (42-20) ended the Boston Celtics’ (48-13) 20-game unbeaten streak at home—now, the championship favorites are looking to exact revenge when the two square off in Denver on Thursday evening.

The Celtics have been atop the NBA standings for the majority of the season and are nearly two-to-one favorites to win the NBA Finals. That’s despite blowing a 22-point fourth-quarter lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their last game.

The Nuggets are second in futures championship odds at +450. They won the title a year ago but only recently started making headlines again now that they’re just one game out of the first seed in the Western Conference.

Here, we will go over the betting odds and share our favorite pick for the Celtics vs. Nuggets heavyweight matchup.

Celtics vs Nuggets Prediction

Celtics vs. Nuggets Betting Odds for Thursday, March 7

The Celtics are 30-28-3 (51.7%) against the spread. This is only the third time all year they are an underdog (both previous times were also on the road), and they went 1-1 ATS in those games.

The Nuggets have the sixth-worst record ATS at 27-33-2 (45%). That number improves to 14-15-1 (48.3%) ATS as a home favorite, though it still puts them below .500. 

Teams Spread Moneyline Total
Boston Celtics +1.5 (-115) -105 Over 221.5 (-110)
Denver Nuggets  -1.5 (-105) -115 Under 221.5 (-110)

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Celtics vs. Nuggets Prediction

Boston Celtics Preview

The Celtics dominate basic and advanced metrics like few teams have before. Their average point differential of +11.2 is the fifth-highest of any team in NBA history, and they rank first in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency.

A major reason for their dominance is their ability to command the three-point line. They make more threes per game than any team while also shooting the fourth-highest percentage (38.6) and holding opponents to the second-lowest percentage (34.8).

The story doesn’t change on the road either. Boston’s road net rating (+6.5), while 9.2 points lower than its home rating, is still the best in the league.

The C’s also rank fourth in rebound rate and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio, which means they close possessions out and usually don’t give away more opportunities than they create.

Taking the numbers out of it, Boston is irrefutably the most versatile and malleable team in the league. They can switch every position on defense and relentlessly attack mismatches on the offensive end, which is why they’re tied for the most points per possession involving a post-up.

If there is a concern with Boston, it is their execution down the stretch when facing an opponent of their caliber. They have the fifth-best point differential per 100 possessions during the clutch, but they also play at the slowest pace (by a wide margin) and routinely take difficult shots—just look at Jayson Tatum’s final attempt against the Cavs on Tuesday.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to score just 35 points on a lowly 34.9% field goal shooting during the lone matchup between these teams in January. Derrick White led the team with 24 points as they shot just 31.8% from beyond the arc.

Denver Nuggets Preview

The Nuggets are a half-point better per 100 possessions on both offense and defense than they were last season, a year that culminated in a gentleman’s sweep in the NBA Finals. But they’ve only just started to get their just due, particularly on the defensive end. 

Denver ranks seventh and barely behind Boston in post-All-Star break defensive efficiency despite playing the high-powered offenses of the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, and Golden State Warriors, among others.

The champs’ starting five also has the second-best net rating (+14.4) of any regular starting five-man lineup, just behind the Milwaukee Bucks’ (+15.3).

Similar to Boston, Denver is second in assist-to-turnover ratio and sixth in rebound rate. However, they make the fourth-fewest threes per game and only shoot 36.5% from beyond the arc, which ranks right in the middle of the league. 

Although the Nuggets might not be as flexible as the Celtics, their execution is second to none. They run an assortment of actions from different positions and angles and can create great offense regardless of who they’re facing.

The Nikola Jokic-Jamal Murray two-man game is also arguably the best fourth-quarter weapon in basketball. The two have such innate chemistry and ability that they deliver far more times than they fall short.

The star pairing combined for 36 points on 67.4% shooting when the teams last met. However, Michael Porter Jr. was the only other player to reach double-digit scoring (13), and the team made just eight threes while shooting 25.8% from deep.

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Celtics vs. Nuggets Betting Pick

These are the two best questions in the league, no questions asked. Although the Celtics are the best road team in basketball with a record of 19-10, the Nuggets are 24-6 and have the third-best net rating at home.

Both teams are coming off of tough losses and will be motivated to the fullest. Boston will be looking for revenge and to prove that its time is now, while Denver simply needs to win games to ensure it can move up to the top spot in the West and secure homecourt in the postseason.

While these teams are relatively even, we have more confidence in Denver’s ability to execute within the margins down the stretch. That combined with their home-court advantage is enough reason for us to trust them on the spread.

How to Watch Celtics vs. Nuggets

  • When: Thursday, 8:00/10:00 p.m. MT/ET

  • Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO

  • TV: TNT

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AUTHOR

Grant Mitchell

490 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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