The Denver Nuggets believe a modest move at the trade deadline will be enough for them to remain in playoff position in the Western Conference.
Quiet at the deadline, the Boston Celtics hope their aging stars can help them do the same in the East.
Talented young center JaVale McGee could make his debut for the Nuggets when they try for a third straight home win over the Celtics on Saturday night.
With 11 players under 27 years of age, Denver (24-20) is among the youngest teams in the NBA. The Nuggets added to their youth by acquiring the 24-year-old McGee along with Ronny Turiaf from Washington for oft-injured Nene on Thursday.
“We did (this trade) with the intention of the big picture. Make the team better,” vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said. “We felt that the direction of the organization at this time was we wanted to go a little bit younger.”
Though not a marquee name, the 7-foot McGee averaged career highs with 11.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in 41 games for the Wizards this season. The fourth-year pro joins a lineup featuring budding young talent in guard Ty Lawson, rookie forward Kenneth Faried and Italian standout Danilo Gallinari.
“I think athletically, it will be the most athletic team that we’ve probably had,” coach George Karl told the Nuggets’ official website.
Tied with Houston for seventh in the West, the Nuggets have alternated wins and losses during the first six of a season-high nine-game home stretch. Andre Miller had 17 points Thursday for Denver, which went 5 of 22 from 3-point range and was outscored 28-14 in the third quarter of a 103-90 loss to West-leading Oklahoma City.
The Nuggets have averaged 104.5 points and allowed the same amount per game during their homestand. Denver has won six of seven at home versus Boston.
Miller has averaged 18.4 points in his last 13 games against the Celtics.
Denver could be without forward Al Harrington (14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds per game), who is day to day with a left knee contusion.
Boston (23-20) looks to regroup after it fell to 2-2 on an eight-game road trip with a 120-95 drubbing at Sacramento on Friday. Ray Allen scored 26 points and Paul Pierce added 19, but the Celtics gave up 41 in the third quarter en route to allowing their highest total of the season.
It was a big step back for the Celtics, who had won eight of their previous 10. Again showing some fatigue that has plagued the aging club throughout this condensed season, Boston committed 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 45-28.
“Whatever you are supposed to have, we didn’t have it tonight,” coach Doc Rivers said. “They played terrific and made every shot. Our defense helped. We didn’t play with the great spirit that we had in this streak. I don’t want this to be a habit.”
Despite his team’s age and inconsistent play, general manager Danny Ainge did not make a move at the trade deadline but could still add help before the postseason.
“I have a lot of faith in our guys,” Ainge said of the Celtics, seventh in the East. “They know the time and the score. They know when the lights are on. They rise to the occasion. I’m hoping we can get to the playoffs healthy, add a little bit of beef between now and the playoffs, and we’ll take our chances there.”
Allen has averaged 24.4 points in 32 career games against the Nuggets, but he was held to 10 during an 89-75 loss in Boston’s last trip to Denver on Feb. 24, 2011.