Extra Pass: Surging Celtics take on Jokic, Nuggets

Published February 11, 2022, 3:15 PMMiguel Flores

The Celtics, riding a six-game winning streak, face the reigning MVP and the visiting Nuggets.

There’s a good chance you’re still basking in the glow of the trade deadline, smelling like coffee and burnt earth from all the Woj bombs. And it’s understandable - we just had one of the most entertaining trade deadlines ever. 

As you try to get back on a healthy circadian rhythm, why not wake up at 8:30 AM tomorrow to watch the Denver Nuggets visit the Boston Celtics live on TV5? Neither team made splashy trades but both should be highly affected by the changes that transpired around the league.

Sneaky good

The Celtics didn’t trade for or trade away a major name but they did add a few solid pieces. They reunited with beloved role player Daniel Theis to add depth to their frontcourt. They also acquired Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs. White, like a true Spur, didn’t get a lot of flash after the deal. But he was probably one of the better adds of the deadline.

White gives Boston a solid playmaking point guard that can set up their offense. He’s a solid offensive player, shooting 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3. But White’s going to make his presence known more on the defensive end where his length adds disruption to Ime Udoka’s burgeoning system.

The Celtics have been quietly digging themselves out of the early season hole they fell into because of poor effort and chemistry. They enter tomorrow with a six-game win streak, climbing up to seventh in the East with a 31-25 record.

Many expected them to deal Marcus Smart earlier today. Instead, they got their wish of going under the luxury tax apron and somehow got a bit better. Watch out for the surging Celtics.

Staying put

You have to feel for Denver. It’s hard to make moves and properly gauge your team when two of your three best players are suffering from major injuries.

There were some deals that Denver was reportedly willing to make but they stayed put through the deadline. They chose to keep riding this monster Nikola Jokic season as far as it could take them. After all, how much better could they have made their roster really?

For now, the Nuggets have been doing pretty well with Will Barton or Aaron Gordon serving as their second-best player. Jokic deserves a second MVP nod just for squeezing the most out of the current Denver lineup.

Forget that Jokic almost averages a triple-double. When Jokic sits or misses a game, the Nuggets are almost 20 points worse per 100 possessions, according to stats by NBA.com’s John Schumann. There are the easy parts to comprehend with Jokic’s greatness – like the Dirk-like shot-making and flashy passing. Then there are the more esoteric parts of his game like leading the league in all advanced offensive metrics.

The Nuggets have more than gotten by with their current setup, currently sitting in sixth in the West with a 30-24 record. The Western Conference playoffs are going to be a bloodbath, especially if the Nuggets can maintain their position.

The matchup

It’s going to be interesting to see how Denver chooses to match up against Boston. Though there has been a shortage of bigs across the league, the Celtics are equipped to throw two viable defenders at Jokic in Al Horford and Robert Williams.

With that said, Jokic has dominated better and younger bigs this season. It might not matter, so it should be on the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to take advantage of their matchups against Denver’s wings. This should be a close game with both teams heading into tomorrow coming off wins.