The Nuggets came into Boston looking for a win, and what a win did they get. Nikola Jokic took control in ways only Nikola Jokic can, and behind the balanced offense plus defensive effort Denver was able to put away the Celtics en route to a 114-105 win. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Nuggets looked like the better team the whole night and are now rewarded with playoff security as a result.
It was clear that Kyrie Irving was going to make tonight a personal mission from the tipoff. But while Irving tried to take things into his own hands with a 1-5 shooting start, the Nuggets patiently played their style of basketball and got off to a 13-4 lead. Al Horford got things going for Boston with a couple of threes. Isaiah Thomas received a touching video tribute, then checked in and proceeded to miss his shots. The rest of the first wasn’t pretty but Denver led 24-22.
The second quarter was ugly to start as both benches struggled to score. Denver’s second unit gave up some long rebounds and second chance points, enabling the Celtics to gain the slight lead. Then, the Nuggets woke up. Jokic came in and drilled a three, Murray hit a three of his own and facilitated some good offense, and Torrey Craig gave some good hustle minutes in the absence of Paul Millsap. Horford hit another three, but on the other ended Jokic had his way with him and scored almost at will. Jokic led Denver with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, and the Nuggets kept Boston at bay 55-52.
Irving really turned on the jets to start the third and found his rhythm, putting up nine quick points and propelling Boston to a lead. On the other side, Denver’s execution was less than stellar. Will Barton forced a couple of bad turnovers which set the tone for the team (7 turnovers in the quarter). Luckily, outside of Kyrie no one in green could buy a bucket. The Nuggets kept it close and capitalized big time in the waning seconds of the quarter. Craig hit a corner three, then Boston turned it over on the inbounds, leading to a wide open dunk for Craig again. End of three, tied at 80.
The quick points at the end of the third seemed to really shift momentum towards Denver. Monte Morris and Plumlee sparked it with some fine pick and roll play, then when Jokic checked back in and drilled some threes. Boston got back into it when Irving reentered the game, but the Nuggets kept plowing ahead and grew the lead to 12. However, three consecutive turnovers culminated by a Kyrie three put the Celtics right back in it. Millsap sealed the game with a four point play with 30 seconds left, and even with some more late horrible, bad, awful, ugly turnovers the Nuggets held on to win.
Game Notes and Thoughts
- Tonight was a very mature game from Jamal Murray. I was sure this would be a game where tries to do too much, but he really played within his lane which was a huge benefit for the team. His defense wasn’t perfect but the effort was really there, and he did a great job when he switched on Kyrie in the first half. He also
- Jokic was just dominant all around. 21-13-7-2-3 seems fairly pedestrian at this point for Jokic, but his impact on the game is unparalleled. He made the right decisions, shot the right shots, and even went 3-7 from deep. Overall, a dominant, vintage Joker game.
- Barton quietly had 20 points, but made some just head scratching plays. His counterpart on the bench, Torrey Craig, killed it though. 13 points off the bench, 8 rebounds and a million effort points.
- Not that it was ever in doubt this season, but WE’RE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!