The Nuggets were soundly defeated on the road against the Celtics, losing 108-95 in the second game of their Eastern Conference road trip.
Nikola Jokic lead the way for the Nuggets, with 30 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and his first 3-point since November 20, but the rest of his teammates weren’t up for the task, encountering a tougher defensive unit than their game Thursday night.
The Celtics got 47 points from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and 19 points from Kemba Walker, locking down the Nuggets in the second and third quarter to roll to a big win at home.
The Nuggets struggled on offense to start the game, missing a couple shots and turning the ball over before Jokic was able to corral an offensive rebound and flip the ball back in the hoop. Gary Harris was able to get a really nice layup, pushing the ball and creating a transition opportunity following a defensive rebound. Jokic was able to pick up a couple of points, out-performing his effort from the game against the Knicks in the first six minutes. The big fella was able to outwork Daniel Theis, a chronic giver of slaps on defense, reaching double-digits through a variety of post moves.
Unfortunately, Jokic picked up his second foul trying to block Enes Kanter down low, and he went to the bench a little earlier than normal. Plumlee started off well though, getting a steal after breaking up a pick and roll, and then finishing with a nice two-handed dunk a few plays later. The Celtics had a small run in the tail end of the first half, scoring on three straight possessions to take a 10-point lead. The Nuggets were able to scratch out a couple points to close out the quarter, including their first 3-pointer on eight attempts in the quarter on a Juancho Hernangomez jump shot.
The Nuggets were stymied by the Celtics defense to start the second quarter, unable to get any open space and unable to get any offensive rebounds. Jayson Tatum started with a personal 8-0 run, including a nasty step-back 3-pointer despite some picture perfect defense by Juancho.
Not to be outdone, Kemba Walker hit a shot just like that, spinning and launching a jumper over Barton that hit nothing but net. On the contrary, the Nuggets kept laying bricks, clanging their jumpers off the rim or back iron. Will Barton tried picking things up for the Nuggets, spinning his way into the paint to get two buckets in a row. The Nuggets defense tightened up, and they were able to get Murray his first points of the game on back-to-back possessions. Walker snapped the Celtics scoreless streak with a layup, and Jokic closed the quarter by missing his fourteenth straight 3-point attempt. The Nuggets center lead the team in scoring with 14 points, but the team didn’t have any other players that had double-digit points in the first half.
Millsap was able to knock in the Nuggets second 3-pointer of the game, stepping into a shot from the top of the key to cut the lead to five. Tatum responded with a mean 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, then drove through the defense on the next possession with a righty finish to bump the lead back up to 10 for Boston. Whenever the Nuggets would get a stop, the Celtics would too, and Boston’s shot-making continued to help them stay in the lead. Jokic continued to brick 3-pointers, but did break the 20-point for the first time since Nov. 20 against the Houston Rockets. The Nuggets starters weren’t able to close the lead — it actually got worse — and the bench assumed the responsibility of trying to gain some ground. They weren’t very successful at that either, with the crowd inspiring the home town team to close on a run and finish the quarter up by 21 points, 85-64. Jaylen Brown pretty much ended this game with one of the best dunks of the season.
Yeah, that pretty much did it. The Nuggets had to play out the final 12 minutes of the game, and Malone wanted to see if his starters could somehow make a 23 point lead disappear, so he put them back in the game with nine minutes left. Malone put MPJ out there with the starters, letting Millsap rest, and the rookie was able to get a couple baskets. The starters sat back down with four minutes after Kemba Walker hit another step-back 3-pointer with a hand in his face. The reserves closed out the game, but nothing was going to make this game closer than what the final score reflected.
Three things to watch for
Not tonight — the Nuggets just got beat real good. Hopefully they’ll bounce back against the Nets in their next game. The only takeaway is that it’s a make or miss league — the Celtics made a lot of shots, and the Nuggets missed a lot of shots.