There are eight games on a busy Friday night in the NBA but the standout matchup is the potential Finals preview between the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
The Nuggets sit in third in the Western Conference with a 28-14 record, 2.5 games behind the conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves.
Boston lead the way in the East with a league-best 32-9 record - and they have been invincible at home with 20 wins and no defeats.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have once again starred for the Celtics, averaging 27.1 and 23.3 points per game respectively. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is nearly averaging a triple-double and is among the frontrunners for this season's MVP award.
|TD Garden, Boston, MA
|7:30 PM ET, Friday, January 19th
|How to watch
Celtics -6.5 Points
Boston have been near-perfect at home this season with 20 wins in as many games, although they have needed overtime in two of those victories.
The Celtics fell short in the postseason last year as they went down in seven games to the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals but they have a chance to make a statement here against the defending champions.
Boston look a better team this year than they did last season after acquiring Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. The arrival of the duo seem to have helped Tatum and Brown reach another level, meaning the matchup between MVP contenders Tatum and Jokic is an interesting sub-plot to this game.
This is the first of two regular season meetings between these sides and they are next scheduled to meet on March 7 in Denver. There is a very real chance that this game is a Finals preview.
For Boston to send out a message, they need to win convincingly in front of their home crowd but if Denver can keep the game close and spring a surprise, it would give them something to build upon in the playoffs.
The best play may be to back Boston to cover what looks a fairly modest -6.5 spread. The Celtics have won their last three games by nine or more points and they have outscored their opponents by 89 points across their last five home assignments while Denver have hit a bit of a rough spell on the road.
The Nuggets head to Boston after consecutive away losses against the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers, so if the Celtics bring their A game, they can win by at least seven points.
Nikola Jokic Over 25.5 Points -110
A win for Boston is expected, but that doesn’t mean Nuggets talisman Jokic won’t come up with the goods on Friday.
Jokic is averaging 25.5 points per game for the season and although he is down on those numbers across December and January - averaging 23.0 this month - he has been filling the stat sheet against key rivals.
The Serb had 25 points and 19 rebounds against Philadelphia last time out, recorded a 27-point triple-double against potential playoff rivals in the New Orleans Pelicans and had 34-points in a win over the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.
Jokic has scored over 25.5 points in four of his last seven games, and should be able to finish with at least 26 in Boston even if that isn’t enough to guide the Nuggets to a win.
Boston is fully healthy for the visit of Denver as starters Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White have been removed from the team’s injury report, indicating that both will return to the lineup after one-game absences.
Forward Aaron Gordon is a concern for Denver due to a right shoulder issue, but he is listed as probable and should be able to feature.
Boston are the fifth highest-scoring team in the league as they average 120.9 points-per-game, while Denver are in the middle of the pack in that regard as they are 13th with 116.3. The Celtics rank 18th in pace; the Nuggets are 27th.
The Celtics also have the second highest defensive rating, behind only Minnesota, and again Denver are outside the top 10 in this category, sitting 12th.
Jokic leads the way for Denver in all significant stats and he is fourth overall in the league for both rebounds and assists, as well as third in three-pointers made. But they are by no means a one-man outfit as the likes of Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray are major contributors.
Boston are one of the most balanced teams in the NBA as all five of their regular starters average over 13 points per-game points, while they have seven players averaging four or more rebounds.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.