Monday night the Boston Celtics finished off their four-game West Coast road trip with a 111-110 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Tonight’s game was the last of a four game West Coast trip, in which they went 2-2. And since returning from London, the C’s are 2-5, yet they still remain atop of the Eastern Conference at 36-15.
The Nuggets came into the game riding a three game winning streak and having lost the first matchup of the season against the Celtics, 124 – 118, in mid-March.
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Marcus Smart was out of the lineup again, missing his second straight game since injuring his hand at the team hotel last week in L.A.
The game started off fairly even, until the Celtics went on a 19-9 run halfway through the first to go ahead 29-19.
Late in the first quarter, Marcus Morris knocked the referee down under the hoop directly into one of cameramen. Morris didn’t even give a thought to helping the ref up and it trigger the ref to respond to him with, “you can’t even help me up?”
With 1.0 second left, Morris was fouled just beyond the arc during a shot attempt, setting him up for three freebies. He nails all three to put the Celtics up 32-21 at the end of the first.
The Celtics shot well in the first, shooting 48 percent from the field and 7-of-11 from three. The Nuggets struggled from deep, shooting only 2-of-10 from three.
Rookie Jayson Tatum was simply electric in the second. And Daniel Theis’ hustle went rewarded again with back-to-back quarters with a wide-open made three spot.
The C’s impressive ball movement was leading to open shots in the first-half, which the team was knocking down at good clip. The Celtics shoot 48 percent from both the field and three-point land, while the Nugget shot only 33 percent.
Going into halftime, the Celtics led 56-45 behind strong transitional defense and consistent scoring. Before the close of the half, Morris and Trey Lyles exchanged some hellos under hoop and ask how each other’s families were doing.
Kyrie Irving led all scorers heading into the half with 15 points (6-7 FG) and three assists and Tatum had 10 points on four-of-six shooting and two-of-three from three.
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At one point during the third quarter, the Nuggets were seven-for-seven in the paint and eventually finished the game with 54 points in the paint.
The Celtics’ 20-point lead dwindled down to four with six minutes to play in the third. Things still were fairing well for the C’s in third, with Denver going on a 10-0 run and the Celtics scoring zero points in four minutes. The Nuggets’ run got things tied up at 66 with 4:33 left in the third.
The Nuggets eventually took an 82-80 lead into the fourth.
Early in the fourth, Tatum got called on a “delay of game” after a made lay up, marking the C’s second of the game, following a miss hap with Irving’s time management early in the game. The miss hap had something to do with Irving’s “heating gear” because of the altitude in the Mile High City.
The Celtics went on to start the fourth with a 14-9 run, to take a 94-91 lead with 7:38 to play.
A tough scoring lull that went like this: bucket, scoreless minute, bucket, scoreless minute, came for both teams not long after the Celtics’ lead changing run.
Things started to brighten up for the Celtics when Irving kisses one off the glass, with Horford knocking down a three on the next procession, giving them a 108-102 lead with a little more than two minutes to play.
Jamal Murray then tied things up for the Nugget at 108, after knocking down a bucket from the side of the key with .43 seconds left in the game.
Brown then followed up Murray’s made basket with one of his own, knocking down a wide-open three from the corner on a pretty Horford assist, giving the C’s a 111-108 lead.
Points in the paint for Denver continued to pile up even late in the game with Murray finishing another lay up to bring the Nuggets within one.
The head scratching play of the game came in the closing seconds of the game. The Nuggets got the defensive rebound following a missed basket by Irving with seven seconds left and they didn’t call a timeout to advance ball, giving themselves a better chance to score the game winner. The Celtics go on to win 111-110.
The Celtics were still able to find a way to pull out win despite being out-rebounds 47-40 and giving up 54 points in the paint, in addition to getting nailed with a pair of shot clock violations.
Irving led all scorers with 27 points (11-17 FG) and six assists. Tatum filled the stat-sheet with 20 points (8-13 FG), six rebounds and four assists. Morris scored 14 (3-4 3PT), with Theis (3-6 3PT) dropping 11 off the bench. Terry Rozier III had himself a night off the bench as well, with eight points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Rozier was the Celtics’ leading rebounder for the night, had the second highest total on the night.
As a team, the Celtics finished the night, shooting 47 percent from the field and from three, with the Nuggets shooting 45 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. Each Nuggets starter scored in double-digits, with Nikola Jokic leading the way with a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
UP NEXT: The Celtics (36-15) begin a three-game home-stand Wednesday night as they welcome the New York Knicks (22-28) to the TD Garden. Catch the call of the game with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell live on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Pre-game coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., with tip-off set for 8:00 p.m.
— By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com