BOSTON CELTICS (28-24)
at DENVER NUGGETS (33-21)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:05 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -8.5, Total: 203
The struggling Nuggets will try to get back in the win column when they host the Celtics on Tuesday night.
Denver went into the All-Star break with three straight losses, a skid that began with a 118-114, triple-overtime defeat in Boston on Feb. 10. The Celtics are 8-1 SU (7-2 ATS) in their past nine games, including a defensive-minded 71-69 win over Chicago six days ago. After resting for the All-Star break, it appears both of these injury-laden teams will be at full strength. Although Boston won the earlier meeting this season, the team is just 1-7 (SU and ATS) in its past eight trips to Pepsi Center.
Can the Rockets keep this game close without the services of James Harden? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Best Bets, StatFox Scott is in the midst of a monster run, going 17-2 ATS (90%) since Feb. 3, and improving his record to an impressive 58% ATS (87-63-1) for the season. The experts are a collective 59% ATS (54-38) in the month of February. StatFox Gary is 70% ATS (7-3) since Feb. 5, and 60% ATS (9-6) for the month of February. For NBA Totals, the experts are a strong 46-33-1 (58%) in the past 20 days with Gary at 17-10 (63%) and StatFox Brian going 15-11-1 (58%) since Jan. 25. For the season, Scott is a whopping 57.1% (76-57) in Totals, while Gary is at 52% (68-63-4).
Before All-Star weekend, Boston won a low-scoring affair over Chicago by a final score of 71-69, with both teams shooting under 37% from the floor. Without Rajon Rondo (torn ACL), that is the type of team the Celtics are going to have to be. They will need to grind out close games and come away with victories. Kevin Garnett played well versus the Bulls with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but that was nothing compared to his performance against Denver when he had 20 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals. One player who has seen a significant increase in usage since the injury of Rajon Rondo is F Jeff Green (10.3 PPG). Green is playing 31.6 MPG in the past five games compared to his season average of 24.6 MPG. In this recent stretch, he's averaging 14.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG. He has provided the Celtics with a ton of energy on a team that desperately needs it. SF Paul Pierce has played extremely well as the team's point forward, especially against Denver when he exploded for 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. He is distributing the ball well (7.3 APG in February) and is the reason the Celtics have kept calm in the absence of their floor general Rondo.
The Nuggets have been very banged up lately, but excuses aside, they entered the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, allowing 115.3 PPG in the defeats in Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn. The Nuggets will now get back SF Danilo Gallinari, who was their go-to scorer before he went out with an illness. Gallinari has averaged 20.9 PPG on 48% FG over his past seven games, which included a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds) against the Celtics. PF Kenneth Faried, who is coming off MVP honors in the Rising Stars game, was also having quite a stretch of games before the break. Faried was averaging 14.9 PPG (61% FG) and 9.4 RPG in the eight games before All-Star Weekend, and was doing all the dirty work for his team in the close losing efforts. PGs Ty Lawson and Andre Miller have been brilliant all season and their play could really lift Denver with Boston’s lack of a true playmaker to handle the ball. Lawson has 28.0 PPG and 9.0 APG during the three-game losing skid, which began with his 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds in Boston.