Celtics

Final: Celtics 112, Nuggets 99- Stars shine with support from bench & a bit of actual effort

The Boston Celtics survived a monster game from Nikola Jokic (43 points) thanks to an effort that has been absent from them the past two games. Jaylen Brown (27 points), Jaylen Brown (21 points), and Walker (17 points) did the bulk of the damage but it was contributions from Robert Williams (8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals), Aaron Nesmith (9 points, 2-4 3pt), and Payton Pritchard (7 assists) that stood out in support of the Celtics stars. The Celtics started off slow but picked up their effort to take control of the game in the first quarter. Denver made their runs, but Boston responded, often taking advantage of a Nuggets team with nine players on the injury report.

Box Score

WHO: Celtics (13-13) vs Nuggets (15-11)
WHEN: 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston

LIVE COVERAGE

Fourth Quarter

  • Robert Williams is making a big impact. He has managed to get 5 steals so far in this game.
  • Brown might be turning it over too much, but he's hitting huge 3-pointers.
  • Denver employed the "hack-a-Tristan" down 11 with 3:14 to play. He hit 3 of 4 free throws to grow the lead to 14.
  • Tatum is starting to attack more, especially when the Denver defense is spread out. He's finding lanes to the rim.

Third Quarter

  • Kemba Walker ran hard into a screen and appeared to be grabbing at his neck area. He stayed in the game.
  • Turnovers are starting to hurt the Celtics. They've devolved into a little more iso-basketball and Tatum and Walker each turned the ball over.
  • The Celtics offense really slowed down, but a couple of 3-pointers and one more shot with a foot on the line beat back Denver's run. Payton Pritchard assisted on all 3 baskets.
  • Jaylen Brown has had some bad turnovers over the past couple of weeks.
  • Jayson Tatum had a couple of big baskets as he, Brown, and the Celtics went on a 15-4 run after Denver tied the game.
  • Jokic and Murry have 60 of Denver's 75 points.

Second Quarter

  • The Celtics bounded out of the break with a quick 3 from Payton Pritchard and an alley oop to Robert Williams. Williams is making a strong impact in his early minutes on both ends.
  • Tatum is getting to the free throw line more often. He's 6-6 from the line at the 7:18 mark of the second.
  • The Denver Nuggets are pretty decimated by injuries. They have 9 guys on the injury report and it's showing in this game.
  • Jokic is absurd. He's on pace to score 60
  • Nesmith hit a huge 3-pointer to keep the Nuggets at arm's length. Celtics bench is outscoring Denver's 23-6.
  • Tatum's 9 points are mostly fueled from 6 free throws. He went into the half shooting 1-7.
  • The Celtics had 14 assists in the first half.

First Quarter

  • The Celtics offense looks very disjointed again. There is almost no cohesion anymore.
  • First timeout at 7:09 and neither Jayson Tatum nor Jaylen Brown have taken a shot.
  • The Celtics really have no answer for Nikola Jokic. He's getting wherever he wants to go.
  • Kemba Walker fueled a 7-0 run to give Boston the lead by hitting a 3 and assisting on two baskets.
  • Aaron Nesmith has actually shown some really good defense in his early stint off the bench. He also hit a 3 after getting an offensive rebound.
  • Walker and Brown combined for 16 points on 6-11 shooting and 5 assists in the quarter.

STARTING LINEUPS

Celtics
G: Kemba Walker
G: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Tristan Thompson

Nuggets 

G: Jamal Murray
G: Facundo Campazzo 

F: Michael Porter Jr.
PF: JaMychal Green
C: Nikola Jokic 

PREGAME NOTES

Jayson Tatum said pregame that he's continued to be impacted by his January bout with COVID-19 in certain games, feeling more fatigued and winded than usual. He averaged 36 minutes per game for 11 straight nights after missing five games with the illness, including playing 40 against Detroit on Friday, before Brad Stevens reeled him back to 23 on Sunday. Tatum said he, Stevens and the medical staff have discussed it, and that it's improving.

"Ever since he came back, we've tried to be on top of that and asked him to be really honest with us about that," Brad Stevens said before the game. "He's a guy that loves to play, will never ask to be taken out, even when he feels that way. And so I think that we all have to do a good job of that. We've talked a lot about those guys that are playing those heavy minutes and specifically when you talk about last week, it was Jaylen's knee, but Jayson coming off of the COVID, we've tried to be on top of it as much as possible."

Tatum is active and Daniel Theis is out with a right index finger sprain he suffered in Washington.

"You guys watched that game. That wasn’t him," Stevens said. "I think he’ll be great tonight. Again, I think that’s the benefit of playing one 23-minute game in the middle of this stretch is that he’ll be able to be better and feel better. He felt a lot better yesterday than I think he did on (Sunday) going into that game, and I think he’ll play well."

Betonline.ag Trends, Betting Odds and Predictions

The Boston Celtics (13-13, 13-13 ATS) look to save their season with just 10 games to go as their losing streak extended to 10-of-15 in bad losses to the east-worst Pistons and Wizards. They'll host the Denver Nuggets (15-11, 12-14 ATS) to begin a homestand.

Daniel Theis is out after spraining his right index finger in Washington, joining Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist).

Gary Harris (thigh), Will Barton (personal), Paul Millsap (knee) and PJ Dozier (hamstring) are out for Denver. Monte Morris (shoulder) is questionable.

According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 1.5 point favorites

  • Celtics vs. Nuggets spread: Celtics -1.5
  • Celtics vs. Nuggets over-under: 221 points
  • Celtics vs. Nuggets money line: Celtics -129, Nuggets +109

The Skinny 

The Celtics didn't take advantage of the softer portion of their schedule, so now it's back to difficult opponents. Denver beat Boston in three of their past four games, with Jamal Murray averaging 19.4 points per game on 51.3% shooting in eight career games against the Celtics.

Nikola Jokic carries a quiet MVP case and will face Tristan Thompson, who has struggled defensively, and Robert Williams, who rarely defends the pick-and-pop. Jokic is averaging 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game on 56.4% FG.

The Nuggets are the fifth-best scoring offense and a top-10 scoring defense on a per-game basis. They shoot 48% from the field and 38% from three, but depend on slowing the pace down. If the Celtics can inch the game closer to 100 possessions, Denver allows 111 points, which ranks 16th.

Michael Porter is a porous defender despite his immense offensive potential, and Denver's more defensive wings are injured. It's an open question who will guard Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Rookies Facundo Campazzo, RJ Hampton and Zeke Nnaji played well in a win over the Lakers and will pick up more minutes.

Predictions 

This one is winnable for the Celtics, though other games have been too. It's also critical moment for Thompson, as the Celtics mull trades that could shake up their wing and inside positions. He's been depended on to guard players like Joel Embiid and Jokic, and so far hasn't done a good job. The Pistons and Wizards went right at him in recent losses.

For whatever last year is worth, Thompson held Jokic to 8-of-18 shooting, 2-of-8 from three with the Cavaliers in two games. Defense, lately, hasn't been the main issue for the Celtics.

Ball movement emerged as a curse Boston had no answer for, going at Detroit and Washington directly, getting turned away, then run at in transition. Brown and Tatum haven't been themselves as they log heavy minutes. Kemba Walker, a silver lining, shot 9-of-18 with 25 points. He also turned the ball over five times.

Boston will lose to anyone playing any basketball reminiscent of the last two games. They've swayed between that and excellent showings like the Raptors win three games ago. Inconsistency has a good side too.

Boston 124, Denver 120 (12-9, 8-11 ATS)