On Monday evening hours before tip-off, the Boston Celtics announced that Gordon Hayward was officially ruled out for the matchup against the Denver Nuggets and had entered the league’s concussion protocol. Hayward was hit in the head during Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and will likely be out a few days longer.
In better news, Al Horford was ruled active for the Celtics and will continue to function as the versatile swiss-army knife down low for Boston. Fellow big man Robert Williams is also out with illness tonight, so Horford’s ability to go provides the Celtics with a huge boost.
Facing off against the Denver Nuggets, the Celtics face a tough test and Hayward’s presence will almost certainly be sorely missed. Horford’s presence should be a warm welcome for the Celtics as he held Nuggets’ star Nikola Jokic to just 8 points in their last matchup.
Both teams head into tonight’s matchup on winning streaks. The Celtics have won their last two compared to the Nuggets’ three-game streak. Outside of rookie Michael Porter Jr. who has yet to see action this year, the Nugget injury report is clean and the team should be at full strength come tip-off.
Celtics Projected Lineup vs Nuggets
Per usual, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier should see heavy minutes off the bench while Aron Baynes plays a solid chunk of minutes in the reserve big man role. Expect slightly larger minute totals from Tatum, Morris, and Brown with Hayward out for the night.
Gordon Hayward Injury Update
Hayward would be forced to head to the locker room and the Celtics announced today that he had entered the league concussion protocol. Although concussions can be fickle and each case is uniquely different, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Hayward to be back on the hardwood at some point in the next week or so.
The Celtics do have tons of depth on the wing should Hayward have to miss an extended period of time but function significantly better when he shoots effectively from the field and plays significant minutes.
Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets Prediction
Look for this battle to be won and lost within the Nikola Jokic vs Al Horford matchup. The Denver Nuggets offense revolves around Jokic and his presence making smart reads or scoring from the middle of the defense unlocks a nearly unstoppable offense from the Nuggets.
Despite containing Jokic last time around, the Celtics failed to stop anything else offensively and allowed Jamal Murray to torch them for 48 points. However, that game came early on in the season when the Celtics were still figuring out their rotations and the same performance from the Nuggets supporting cast should not be expected.
In what should be an extremely close game, look for Jokic to have a slightly better performance and lead the way for the Nuggets down the stretch. Expect a close finish, but for the Nuggets to come out on top in front of their home crowd.