The blame-game has officially found its way to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
With the Celtics looking to add to their third quarter lead with 1.1 seconds left in the quarter, Stevens called a timeout with the intentions of giving the Celtics a final frame cushion of at least four points. But the play went nowhere ‘cept the sidelines on an out-of-bounds move, and the Nuggets responded with a game-tying dunk to even things up at 80-80 through three.
The Boston misstep and Nuggets make to end the third quarter completely changed the complexion of this game’s final 12 minutes, giving the Nuggets an obvious extra jolt of life while you could sense the Celtics simply sink into themselves, which paved the way for a Denver fourth quarter that overwhelmed the C’s in a 114-105 final.
“I probably shouldn’t have called the timeout,” Stevens admitted after the defeat. “I’m probably going to lose it going into the fourth, and you think maybe if you can get a matchup going down the court, then that’s a good thing. Otherwise, be safe. And I shouldn’t have done that. And we just didn’t respond to that.
“We didn’t respond well.”
The fourth quarter saw the Celtics have their chances, of course, but not before the Nuggets piled up leads of at least 10 points on three separate stretches, as Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, and Paul Millsap combined for 19 points alone.
The Celtics had no answer for Jokic throughout the night, in fact, as the 6-foot-10 big finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds in the winning effort, and helped pace the Nuggets in a night that saw them out-rebound the Celtics 51-37.
Kyrie Irving finished the night with a team-leading 30 points in 36 minutes of play, while Boston center Al Horford finished with 20 points behind an 8-for-15 night from the field and led the Celtics with six assists.
Former Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, now with the Nuggets, drew into this game for six minutes off the Denver bench. It was Thomas’ first game action on the Garden parquet since the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Green travel to Philadelphia for a Wednesday night head-to-head with the Sixers.