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The Boston Celtics (32-9) will put their flawless home record on the line when they welcome the defending champion Denver Nuggets (28-14) into TD Garden on Friday.
The Celtics have the best record in the NBA and are a perfect 20-0 at home. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are 2.5 games out of first place in the Western Conference but are only 12-8 on the road.
Here, we will break down the betting odds and share our favorite picks for the Nuggets vs. Celtics matchup.
The Celtics are favored by 5.5 points on Friday. They've been 6-2 against the Nuggets since the start of the 2019-20 campaign but have not faced them this year and lost their most recent matchup on New Year’s Day 2023, 111-123.
|Over 233.5 (-110)
|Under 233.5 (-110)
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The Nuggets own claim to the title of the best starting five in the league, given the hurt they put on teams in the playoffs last year.
Denver is sixth in net rating (+5.3), with a better offensive rating and equivalent defensive rating to last year. They also lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and shoot the eighth-best percentage from three despite playing at the third-slowest pace, which is a testament to their ability to create open looks without forcing the issue.
While the reigning champs are decent on the offensive glass, they’re only 15th (league average) in defensive rebound percentage—but despite that, they allow the third-fewest second-chance points.
The Nuggets are at their best when they can get into their dribble-handoff, primarily with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. They average 1.03 points per possession involving a handoff, the fifth-highest success rate in the league, and run the second-most handoffs per game (despite their sluggish pace).
The leader of the Nuggets is unquestionably Nikola Jokic. Despite averaging 25.5 points on 17.1 field goal attempts per game this season, The Joker is down to 23.0 points on 13.0 attempts per game (on a whopping 73.1% shooting percentage).
He also averaged 24.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in games against the top three teams in each conference, all of which are down on his season averages, and during which his team went 1-4.
Jokic has also struggled to lock down the interior. He allowed opponents to shoot the ninth-best percentage amongst centers with at least 10 starts (and the fourth-best amongst full-time starters).
Denver as a whole only outscores opponents by .2 points per 100 possessions while on the road. Part of that can be attributed to their bench (25th in overall rating), but the team also struggled away from home last year.
On the other side is the Boston Celtics, the consensus best team in the league. They’ve been able to achieve their success for several reasons, the primary of which is their complete versatility.
A starting five of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, and Kristaps Porzingis can switch virtually every position on defense and either take defenders to the rack or spot up for three on offense.
The C’s take and make more threes than any team in the league. They’re also on a hot streak from outside and are making 40.7% of their long-range attempts in 2024.
Boston is second in defensive rating and third in offensive rating and rebound rate. They don’t turn the ball over frequently and get back in transition when they do to limit their opponent’s scoring.
The Celtics run isolation at the fourth-highest frequency in the league, leading to 1.00 points per possession (eighth). That’s going to put lots of pressure on the Nuggets’ perimeter defense, especially when the reserves are in.
As if they weren’t balanced enough, the Boston bench has the highest overall rating in the league and is fifth in three-point percentage (38%). They don’t have great individual defenders but still play intelligent team defense and have been great assets for coach Joe Mazzulla.
Boston, as one would expect from the undefeated home record, outscored opponents by a ridiculous average of 15.8 points per 100 possessions at home. They’re 4-4 against top-three teams from each conference, going 2-1 against the Western Conference.
Boston, like Denver, plays at a slow pace… but while Denver deploys a multitude of sets and actions, Boston usually looks to exploit mismatches, drives to kick to three-point shooters, or goes into its isolation game.
The key question here will be whether Denver can successfully hound the three-point line, and if they can’t, if they can clear the defensive glass in one shot.
The Celtics are rightful favorites against a Nuggets squad that is 5-4 over its last nine games. The question is whether they will beat the champs by more than five points, and we believe they will.
Nuggets vs. Celtics pick: Celtics -5.5 at BetMGM
When: Friday, Jan. 19 @ 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
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.More info on Grant Mitchell
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