Celtics Host Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets in Battle of First-Place Teams Looking to Bounce Back

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Celtics Host Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets in Battle of First-Place Teams Looking to Bounce Back The TD Garden is playing host to a pair of good teams determined to get back on track.

In Boston's case, it's a matter of redemption after a frustrating Monday night in Utah. In that loss, the C's collapsed in the second half and watched their four-game winning streak fall to pieces. As for the Nuggets, this one comes on the heels of back-to-back losses — one at home to the Bucks and one to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

When and Where

Wednesday, March 24, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

Records

Celtics (45-25, first place in Atlantic Division, third place in Eastern Conference)
Nuggets (47-24, first place in Northwest Division, second place in Western Conference)

Head to Head

This is the Celtics' second and final matchup this season with the Nuggets. They lost the first one in Denver on Feb. 21. In the loss, the C's came out flat defensively in the first quarter and gave up 37 points as former Celtic Chauncey Billups torched them all over the floor.

Skinny

The Celtics just got done playing three legitimate Western Conference contenders. This one might be even better than the first three. They Nuggets have one of the game's most explosive offensive players in Carmelo Anthony. They have a great veteran leader at point guard in Billups and an amazing supporting cast of physical, athletic, defensive-minded role players that can make this team win. The Nuggets were in the West finals with the Lakers last spring, and it wouldn't surprise a soul if they made it back. This team is this good.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins

Nuggets
Point guard: Chauncey Billups
Shooting guard: Arron Affalo
Small forward: Carmelo Anthony
Power forward: Joey Graham
Center: Nene Hilario

Stat Sheet

Celtics
The Celtics are 21-17 this season against winning teams.

They are second in the NBA in assists with 1,651.

Rajon Rondo leads the NBA in steals by a mile, with 163. The Warriors' Monta Ellis is second with 134.

Kendrick Perkins
is shooting 58.3 percent from the free-throw line, a career low.

Kevin Garnett
is averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game at home.

Paul Pierce
is averaging 18.0 points per game in March, a huge jump up from his 11.7 in February.

Ray Allen
has made 28 of 64 3-point attempts in March.

Nuggets
The Nuggets are 4-0 in overtime games this season, the best record in the NBA.

They are third in the NBA in steals with 598.

Carmelo Anthony has 28.8 points per game, ranking third in the NBA behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Nene Hilario is shooting 59.3 percent from the field, third-best in the league.

J.R. Smith has attempted 389 3's, third-most in the league.

Chris Andersen
leads the Nuggets in blocks with 128.

Chauncey Billups is a 90.8 percent free-throw shooter. He was 14-for-15 against the Knicks on Tuesday night.

Black and Blue

Celtics
Still no injuries to report in Boston. It's been a good month.

Nuggets
Ty Lawson returned to action Tuesday night against the Knicks after missing 10 games with a bruised left shoulder.

Kenyon Martin is out with tendinitis in his left knee.

Renaldo Balkman has traveled with the team but is unlikely to play due to a strained back.

This Date in Celtics History

In 1960, the Celtics win the Eastern Conference finals by defeating the Philadelphia Warriors 119-117, on a buzzer-beating tip-in from Tommy Heinsohn. Boston goes on to beat the St. Louis Hawks in seven games to win the NBA Finals.

Overheard

"Let me be clear, the refs didn't lose the game for us — the Jazz did more things in the second half and I thought they played terrific. I was just upset. I didn't think he made the call in front of him, so, you know, I got thrown out for that. He has the right to do that. As a coach, they say you're out, and you've got to go, so I left."
–Doc Rivers' explanation of his ejection from Monday night's game against the Jazz

The Press Box

Celtics
Doc Rivers got tossed, and the Celtics got rolled.

Paul Pierce reveals a past knee procedure.

Rajon Rondo is unsure about Team USA.

Nuggets

They're without a coach, but they've still got heart.

The road will be tough for Denver.

Ty Lawson is back in action.

NBA
Gilbert Arenas
could be looking at jail time.

Chris Paul's ready to return.

Jason Kidd turned 37 — and led the Mavs past the Clippers.

Outlook

Here's the all-important question: Who stops Carmelo? The Nuggets have won far too many games this season by keeping it simple and letting their dominant scorer take over. When the Celtics take the floor, they have to have a game plan for stopping Denver's perennial MVP candidate. If Pierce, Garnett and Marquis Daniels can all do their part, the C's will be in good shape, but it has to be a team effort against Denver's offensive juggernaut.

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