Celtics-Nuggets preview: C's look to return to winning ways

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BOSTON – We’re more than a third of the way through this season, and it has been a seldom seen occurrence for the Boston Celtics to step on the floor trying to get back on a winning track.

But those rare losses have been consistently followed by the kind of bounce-back performances that serve as a reminder as to why the Celtics (23-6) have been the team to beat in the Eastern Conference most of this season. 

After losing their first two games of the season, each of Boston’s next three defeats were followed by a double-digit Celtics win. 

They hope to continue that trend tonight against a Denver Nuggets team that despite a dominant 103-84 win over Detroit on Tuesday night, has struggled on the road with twice as many losses (10) as victories (5).  

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Meanwhile, the Celtics’ overall success this season has been in part due to them taking care of business at the TD Garden where they have a 12-2 record which is the third-highest home winning percentage in the NBA this season. 

But this game will be challenging for the Celtics for several reasons. 

Al Horford, who has been instrumental in setting the table offensively with his play-making and defensively with his communication skills and versatility on the floor, will sit this game out for what the team has described as “rest.”

Prior to Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Monday, Horford was a game-time decision after injuring his knee the previous night at Detroit when he bumped knees with the Pistons’ Anthony Tolliver. 

Horford was able to finish out the game against Detroit as well as play against the Bulls on Monday, but he struggled like most of the Celtics in the loss to the Bulls which was the team’s most lopsided defeat this season.

Boston may also be without Kyrie Irving (left quad contusion) who did not play against the Bulls, although he is listed as probable. 

You won’t find the Nuggets shedding any tears for the Celtics when it comes to injuries.

Nikola Jokic (pronounced ni-KOLA yo-kitch), one of the NBA's talented young big men, is out with a left ankle injury. The Nuggets (15-12) will also be without Paul Millsap (left wrist), Denver’s big offseason acquisition.

Without their top two big men, the Nuggets have become a much more perimeter-oriented team which is evident by them shooting 37 percent from 3-point range which ranks 10th in the NBA. 

In their win against Detroit on Tuesday, second-year guard Jamal Murray had a game-high 28 points which included him shooting 4-for-8 from 3-point range. 

And Trey Lyles came off the bench for the Nuggets to score 20 points and was a percent 3-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line.

Indeed, the Celtics will have their hands full tonight if they are to get back to their winning ways.

But when it comes to games after losses, the Celtics have played some of their best basketball.

“We have to respond against Denver,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters following the loss at Chicago. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”

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