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NBA: Boston Celtics @ Denver Nuggets Preview

There are three games in the NBA on New Year’s Day and the clear highlight takes place at the Ball Arena in Denver as the best in the West Nuggets entertain Eastern Conference frontrunners Boston Celtics.

Denver have surged to the top of the Western Conference with a run of nine wins in their last 11 games, while Boston have been leading the way in the East for the majority of the season and they boast a league-best 26-10 overall record.

What: Boston Celtics @ Denver Nuggets
Where: Ball Arena, Denver
When: 20:00 ET, Sunday January 1st 2023
How to watch: NBA League Pass, ALT, NBCSB
Odds: BOS Celtics -125, DEN Nuggets +105

Boston finally back on the road

The Celtics completed 2022 with a seven-game home stand and they head to Denver seeking a fifth straight win.

Boston did lose the first three games of that run, two to Orlando Magic and one to Indiana Pacers, but they rediscovered their form and picked up some big wins - including a Christmas Day success against their main conference rivals, Milwaukee Bucks.

Denver overcame Miami Heat at the Ball Arena in their last outing after a pair of games against the Kings in Sacramento, winning one and losing one, and they boast an impressive home record as they have won each of their last seven at home - including their own Christmas Day assignment against Phoenix Suns

Final regular season clash between Conf leaders

If these two teams do manage to go all the way to the Finals, this could be a hugely significant game as it is their final meeting in the regular season.

A win for Denver would be vital as they have struggled against the Celtics in recent years and they went down 131-112 in Boston in their last meeting in November.

Boston won both games last season, including a 20-point victory in Denver in March, and they have won their last six games against the Nuggets in a run stretching back to 2019.

Reigning MVP meets this season’s frontrunner

Nikola Jokic is the biggest weapon in the Denver arsenal and the two-time reigning MVP is enjoying another incredible season, averaging 25.5 points-per-game, 10.9 rebounds and a career-high 9.5 assists.

The Serb center is a contender to win this year’s individual award and on Sunday he comes up against the man who may well be crowned the regular season MVP at the end of this season, Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

Jokic is rated at +350 to win the MVP award, while Tatum is on offer at +260.

This game isn’t a straightforward match-up between Jokic and Tatum, they are unlikely to be tasked with guarding each other particularly often, but it is an intriguing subplot in an already loaded narrative as these two championship contenders go head-to-head in the first batch of games in 2023.

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Mazzulla set for Celtics return

Boston have been without their coach for their last two games due to an eye issue but Joe Mazzulla is expected to return to the bench when the Celtics face Denver.

On the court, long-term injury victim Danilo Gallinari will miss out once again as the Italian forward continues to recover from a knee injury.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon and veteran forward Blake Griffin missed the win over Los Angeles Clippers last time out due to illness and the duo are expected to miss out once again.

Denver are definitely missing forward Jeff Green and star guard Jamal Murray is rated as questionable.

Murray missed the defeat at Sacramento Kings with a knee issue and then returned against Miami on Friday, managing 14 points and six assists in 33 minutes.

In all likelihood Murray will be available for the visit of Boston but he could see his involvement limited as the Nuggets bid to manage his fitness after a minor problem.

Expect a battle in Denver

Boston may have dominated the recent meetings but there is a bit of extra motivation for Denver in this game as they bid to maintain their lead at the top of the West.

This could well be a close affair and that is reflected in the Point Spread, with Boston handed a -1.5 points handicap and Denver +1.5.

Both Tatum and Jokic will be keen to put in big performances to underline their MVP credentials and Tatum is -115 to score over 29.5 points, while Jokic is -115 to record over 11.5 rebounds.

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