2-on-2: Celtics vs. Nuggets (Game 44 of 66)


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The Celtics are hoping Paul Pierce's ankle feels good enough to go on Saturday night in Denver.The Boston Celtics (23-20, 7-12 away) don't have much time to lick their wounds after getting stomped in Sacramento on Friday as they get right back to work on Friday by visiting the Denver Nuggets (24-20, 13-11 home) at the Pepsi Center (9 p.m., CSN). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne.

1. What about the Nuggets should scare the Celtics most?

Payne: Even after the trade the Nuggets swung on Thursday (shippingNene to the Wizards for JaVale McGee), they still boast the majority of the roster that's proven to be one of the most efficient on the offensive end in the NBA this season. On top of that, Denver pushes the ball in transition as well as any team in the league, as they are No. 1 in possessions per game, according to HoopData. Seeing as its the second night of a back-to-back and the Celtics will have spent the much of the night traveling, it could be tough for them to find the needed legs to keep pace and bring the necessary defensive intensity to compete with Denver.

Forsberg: Two consecutive games with opponents topping the century mark in scoring has to leave coach Doc Rivers leery about a Denver squad that ranks near the top of the league as an offensive unit (the Nuggets rank fourth in the league at 0.948 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data). Like the Kings, Denver thrives in transition and will likely be looking to run early and often against Boston's tired legs. That's a recipe for disaster, particularly if Denver gets McGee on the floor for his team debut (which will only add another spark). Area to watch: The Nuggets are one of the best teams in isolation, so Boston absolutely has to pick up its man-to-man defense to be competitive in this one.

2. What should the Celtics do about a big man? Sign Chris Johnson, bring back Jermaine O'Neal, or just wait out the upcoming buyouts?

Payne: It definitely isn't looking like O'Neal will be any type of legitimate option, and Johnson is certainly appealing, if for no other reason than he's freakishly athletic and he's already familiar, somewhat, with the Celtics' system. The C's would have to either waive a player under contract or conduct their own buyout in order to sign someone like Johnson, but such a player could be Chris Wilcox, seeing as he's done for the season. While it's not looking like there will be any true gems in terms of players who will be bought out around the league, the C's could stay patient and cross their fingers for someone with a little more experience than Johnson or someone that's more of a proven rebounder.

Forsberg: The Celtics keep stressing that they'll take this process slow, so unless they get an indication that another team might be hot for Johnson, I don't see any reason for them to rush (other than that it's painfully obvious the team is in need of another big man at the moment). Boston will likely gain more clarity on Jermaine O'Neal's situation in the next couple days, while the buyout train should pick up a little steam given next Friday's playoff eligibility waiver deadline. Ultimately, I think Boston will wait because they are going to be a very attractive destination for any released player and will be able to offer more playing time than some of their rivals.