Nikola Jokic had 24 points and 11 rebounds, but was beat badly on defense on the game-winning possession for the Celtics, with a poor closeout on Al Horford, followed up by a poor rotation to Jaylen Brown in the corner, with the second year guard sinking a 3-pointer to give the Celtics the winning points.
Kyrie Irving had 27 points on 17 shots, shaking off a knee injury to help deliver his team a win in their final game of a four-game road trip.
Mason Plumlee left the game in the fourth quarter, appearing to suffer a calf injury that hopefully won’t be too serious. The Nuggets starting center had a nice game, with 16 points and 8 rebounds, with some great defensive play that is one of his defining traits.
The Nuggets started the game trading baskets with the Celtics, with each team attacking the rim and creating open looks from the perimeter. Both teams started missing shots once they reached 10 points, and then Kyrie Irving decided Boston needed some points. Gary Harris had a beautiful step-through move to the basket for a layup, but that was the last Nuggets basket for a bit, as the Celtics went on a 14-3 run to take a 24-15 lead. The Nuggets made a small run to close the quarter, but Will Barton fouled Marcus Morris on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Celtics forward gave Boston a 32-21 lead after one.
The Nuggets continued to struggle to score against the Celtics length, with Mudiay and Faried both struggling to convert looks near the rim. Jayson Tatum had a nice sequence, blocking one of Mudiay’s shots near the rim, and then knocking down a 3-pointer in transition to put the Celtics up by 16 points just four minutes into the second quarter.
The Nuggets got out and ran to start the third quarter, getting defensive stops and creating scoring opportunities in transition. They tied the game off a Gary Harris jumper in the paint, 66-66, and his backcourt mate Jamal Murray gave Denver a 69-68 lead a few possessions later with a 3-pointer in transition. The Nuggets intensity was high throughout the quarter, and it was one of the best 12 minute stretches they’ve had all season. They dropped 37 points on the Celtics, who are one of the best defensive teams in the league, and Will Barton flung in a runner to give Denver a 82-80 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Denver put in their reserves to start the fourth, and they decided to let the Celtics shoot wide open 3-pointers, quickly closing the gap on a lead the Nuggets had set up. The Celtics defense tightened up, and they went on a run for a few minutes, managing to take a six point with two minutes left.
The Nuggets forced a shot clock violation, and tied the game at 108 with 43 seconds left. A Jaylen Brown was followed by a layup by Jamal Murray, and they forced a miss by Irving with seven seconds left. Lyles rebounded the ball, and passed it to Barton with four seconds left. Michael Malone decided to save his final timeout for the Spurs game, and Barton missed a last-second 3-pointer from 30 feet, with Torrey Craig’s tip-in coming a second too late.