Joe Murray

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 15: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics dribbles during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 15, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

On Friday night at the Garden the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference Boston Celtics (32-9) welcome Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Denver Nuggets (28-14) to Boston in a heavyweight battle that many believe could be an NBA Finals preview. The Celtics have been perfect at home this season sitting at 20-0 headed into this one while the Nuggets sit at 3rd in the Western Conference coming off a tough loss to the 76ers on Wednesday night.

First Quarter

Both teams headed into this one fully healthy so NBA fans were in for potentially the game of the year and it certainly looked that way early on. Kristaps Porzingis made his presence felt early scoring Boston’s first 11 points giving them a slight 11-8 lead with 9 minutes to go in the first quarter. Jokic was making his presence felt early as well with 6 points 2 rebounds and an assist in his first 6 minutes. The teams continued to trade shots throughout the first quarter led by Jokic and Porzingis who were both in double figures early in this one.

With 2:30 to go in the first Porzingis was already up to 15 points on 4/5 shooting while Jokic had 13 on 6/8 shooting. NBA fans that hate load management and the National TV executives that have had so many bad games on the slate this season had to be thrilled at what they were getting in the first quarter. It was an unbelievable display of high level basketball with Boston leading by one 32-31 at the end of the first quarter.

Second Quarter

The second quarter couldn’t have started any better for Boston as Jayson Tatum who was relatively quiet in the first quarter rattled off 6 quick points giving Boston a 38-31 lead forcing Denver head coach Mike Malone to call an early timeout. Malone’s timeout certainly seemed to work  as Denver rattled off a 9-3 run led by Jamal Murray to get them right back into the game. The second quarter turned into a game of runs as Boston would explode for a 9-1 run to answer Denver’s. Giving Boston it’s largest lead of the night 52-44 with 4:49 left in the half.  This lead would expand but only slightly as Murray and Jokic really started to heat up to close the quarter going on a 7-3 run to cut Boston’s lead to six 61-55 at the end of the first half.

  • Third Quarter

    The third quarter would start just as the first half ended with both teams trading shots back and forth led by their superstars. Jokic and Murray continued to light it up combining for 43 of Denver’s 62 points with 10 minutes left in the third. The duo would start to dominate the quarter over the next few minutes evaporating the Celtics lead as Jokic would hit a jumper with 6:57 to go in the third to give Denver it’s first lead since early in the game 69-68.

    Boston would counter again though after a Joe Mazzula timeout going on a 9-0 run fueled by Derrick White making huge plays on both ends. The D-White show would continue as White would rattle off 8 straight points and 11 of Boston’s fourteen after the timeout. Every time it seemed like Boston might start to pull away the defending champs would show exactly why they were just that, answering Boston’s run with a 6-0 run of their own to make it an 82-79 game with 1:20 to go in the third. The quarter would end with Boston holding the slightest of leads 82-81 and everyone at home and in attendance was getting their money’s worth.

  • Fourth Quarter

    Thirty-four seconds into the fourth quarter we’d start the game all over again tied at 84 so arguably the two best teams in the league would spend the final 11:30 trying to separate themselves. Murray and Jokic continued to show why they’re the best duo in the league accounting for 61 of Denver’s 88 points with 9:20 to go in the game. The fourth quarter would continue to live up to the hype with both teams displaying elite shot making trading blows back and forth.

    Denver would get the lead 93-89 with 6:30 to go but Boston would once again answer with an 8-2 run taking the lead 98-95 with 4:50 to go in the game. It’s rare a regular season game lives up to the hype but this one certainly did with 8 ties and 12 lead changes up to this point. Jaylen Brown who has been preaching defense this season wanted the assignment on Murray late in this one and how he handled it would very well determine the outcome of this one. Jokic would hit a jumper with 4 minutes to go to give Denver a 99-98 lead, Jokic had 34-12-9 to that point.

    The final couple minutes were an absolute chaotic mess of basketball brilliance with both teams trading frantic offense into frantic defense and Boston would find itself trailing by 2 with 13 seconds left and the ball after winning a jump ball called on a double lane violation with Michael Porter Jr. at the free throw line something you rarely ever see. Boston would get a shot at the end to tie or win the game but their superstar Jayson Tatum couldn’t get a good enough look and his tough jumper rimmed out as Boston would lose it’s first home game of the season. The tandem of Jokic and Murray just proved to much for a Celtics team that’s been dominant at home to this point in the season.

    Boston and Denver showed why they are two of the title favorites and Denver showed why they are the defending champs in this one. Boston’s late game struggles reared it’s ugly head again as Tatum and Brown failed to execute late in this one costing Boston the game. There’s no need to panic in Boston after one loss but fans will have plenty of questions about Joe Mazzula’s in game management to go along with Tatum and Brown’s struggles in this one.

    Scaz’s takeaways 

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