Celtics-Nuggets preview: Time for a turnaround

Celtics-Nuggets preview: Time for a turnaround
January 7, 2014, 1:30 pm
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At some point tonight against Denver, the Celtics will face some form of adversity, whether it's a questionable call or a frustrating string of misses or an inability to corral 50/50 balls.

Understanding those situations isn't the problem. Handling them properly? That's another story.

And sadly, that's becoming the narrative for a Celtics season that's spiraling downward with no end in sight.

Boston (13-21) comes into tonight's game against the Nuggets (16-17) having lost four straight and seven of their last eight games. Many of the losses stem from the Celtics getting away from things that worked well for them during earlier stages of play.

Against the Thunder, the Celtics were within two points (51-49) in the second quarter. But a 15-7 run by the Thunder ensued, putting the Celtics behind by double-digits at the half. And things just got worse from there, the kind of snowball effect this team has been failing of late to overcome.

"As a group when things don't go well, we've got to collect ourselves quicker and make things go in our favor again," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Here are some other keys in tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston will be well served to get back in transition defensively as soon as possible, with the goal being to avoid making tonight's game a battle of who can out-shoot who. Denver has averaged 124 points in their last two games, both wins. This season, they are 8-2 when they score 110 or more points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs Wilson Chandler. Green did a lot of good things offensively in the second half of Boston's loss at Oklahoma City. It'll be interested to see if he can build off of that, or will he revert back to the slumping play we have seen of late from him. Chandler averages 12.9 points per game and has hit for double figures in 21 of the team's last 24. He's an X-factor type of player that the Celtics have to keep an eye on.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kenneth Faried is another high-energy, major impact kind of player. He's averaging 10 points and 7.7 rebounds, but that doesn't begin to touch the surface as to his value to this Nuggets team with his effort on seemingly every play of the game.

STAT TO TRACK: Sticking with the theme of avoiding a shoot-out, Boston has to do a solid job of defending the three-point shot. The Celtics have been one of the best at defending threes this season, evident by them limiting opponents to 32.9 percent shooting on threes which is the second-best mark in the league. But the Celtics' last game played, a blowout loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday, was a game in which there were several defensive breakdowns which included allowing Oklahoma City far too many good looks at three-pointers. The Thunder made them pay by connecting on 9-of-19 threes. Similar defensive struggles will have a similar result for the Celtics.