Celtics - Nuggets preview: Denver offense fast and fierce

Celtics - Nuggets preview: Denver offense fast and fierce
December 6, 2013, 1:30 pm
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BOSTON — The Denver Nuggets bring one of the NBA's highest-scoring offenses to town tonight.

So what else is new?

After all, that's what Denver does right?

While the Nuggets will surely look to push the pace as much as possible against the Boston Celtics, this Nuggets team gets it done somewhat differently.

Denver will chuck its share of shots, for sure. You don't average 104.3 points per game (fifth-highest in the league) without jacking up a shot or two.

But under rookie coach Brian Shaw, there seems to be a greater need to play inside-out, which then opens things up for their perimeter shooters who have connected on 37.8 percent of their shots which ranks 10th in the NBA.

Along with their long-range shooting success, the Nuggets are also fifth in second-chance points (15.5) per game points in the paint (47.1) which speaks to the success they are having as team that ranks fifth in rebounds (45.9) per game.

"I've been fortunate enough to be affiliated with teams that have had success and made deep playoff runs," said Shaw, a former first-round pick of the Celtics. "And one thing that's consistent is, you have to establish an inside presence whether it's big men or just getting into the paint, and you have to be good in half court execution."

The Celtics are well aware of the Nuggets seeking to be a balanced team offensively. But they've seen enough video of Denver to know that the Nuggets want to run ... a lot.

"Denver is a push-it team," said Boston's Jared Sullinger. "Between Nate (Robinson) and Ty Lawson, Andre Miller ... those guys like to push the tempo, force the tempo."

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments about the Nuggets, winners of seven of their last eight games.

"They play fast," Stevens said. "They're very skilled. They're very aggressive. I could go through the laundry list of things we need to do well. We're going to have to play exceptionally well, maybe as well as any game we've played to do what we want to do."

Here are some other keys to tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Nuggets play at a pace of 99.2 possessions per 48 minutes (fourth-best in the NBA this season), so defending them often involves committing a lot of fouls. Boston's ability to instill their defensive will without fouling will be huge, especially when you consider the Nuggets are ninth in the league in free throw attempts (25.6) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs J.J. Hickson: One of the few times this season Sullinger will start at center and be as big or bigger in terms of height and weight. Both Sullinger and Hickson have a nose for the ball, although Sullinger has more to offer from a scoring standpoint while Hickson tends to make more athletic plays like blocking shots and playing above the rim.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Boston's Jeff Green should come out ahead in his matchup with Wilson Chandler. The Celtics have made getting Green going early a priority. It has resulted in eight straight double-digit scoring games for Green who is playing his best basketball of the season, right now.  We'll see if the Celtics stick to that script tonight.

STAT TO TRACK: This game may very well be decided on which team gets more put-back baskets. Denver comes in ranked dead-last in the NBA in second-chance points allowed (15.7). Just behind them? Yup. The Boston Celtics who are allowing 14.8 second-chance points allowed.