By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Following one of the worst losses of the Brad Stevens era on Sunday, the Celtics put together a much-needed rebound effort, topping the Denver Nuggets 112-99 Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Making the win even more impressive is that the Celtics were without starting center Daniel Theis, who was ruled out Tuesday afternoon with a finger injury. Facing arguably the best center in the league in Nikola Jokic, it looked like a bad mismatch for the C’s on paper.
Jokic got the Nuggets off to a quick start, but the Celtics never let the game out of control. By locking the other four guys down defensively, Boston kept things from getting out of hand right away. Heading into the first commercial break, Jokic was 4-for-4 with 10 points, but the rest of the Nuggets were 1-for-7 with just three points.
Denver was up by as much as six to start the game, but the Celtics put together an 8-0 run coming out of the first break. After one quarter, Boston led 30-26 despite Jokic having 15 points.
The second quarter started off with a bang. Payton Pritchard, who struggled in the Celtics’ back-to-back losses, found Robert Williams, who’d been hurt, for a monster ally-oop. It was the kind of momentum play both players needed, and stretched the C’s lead to nine.
Up by as much as 15 in the second quarter, the Celtics got a little sloppy with the ball approaching halftime. Denver scored 16 points off of nine first-half Celtics turnovers, and closed the gap before the break. Heading into the locker room, Boston was up 59-54.
Despite a chance to make adjustments, the Celtics turnover issues continued into the second half. This allowed the Nuggets to continue to chip away, and Jokic tied the game up on a fadeaway with four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Once again, the Celtics were able to hold off the Nuggets’ run before the game got out of hand. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored the final 12 points of the quarter for Boston, who went back up by 11 and led 86-75 with one quarter to play.
The duo continued to carry Boston in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the final frame. A three pointer from Brown put them up double digits with seven minutes to play, and they never looked back.
Brown led the Celtics in scoring with 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting. He was 5-of-10 from deep. Tatum followed him with 21 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Kemba Walker, with 17 points, was the only other Celtic in double figures. Tristan Thompson turned in a game-high 12 rebounds.
Jokic certainly did his damage, with a game-high 43 points on 16-of-23 shooting. Yet the Celtics strategy of containing all of his teammates proved to be effective. Jamal Murray scored 25 points, most of which came during a mid-third quarter run, but nobody else had more than 15 points for Denver. Only three Nuggets, including Jokic, had a positive +/-.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Boston, and moves their season record to 14-13. They’re now 7-4 at TD Garden.
This game was the first half of yet another back-to-back for the Celtics. They’ll return to action Wednesday night hosting the Atlanta Hawks, with coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com