The Denver Nuggets (34-19) eyed their ninth consecutive win as the Boston Celtics (28-26) rolled into town Sunday.

Michael Porter Jr began the game with a quick transition three and both of Denver’s baskets gaining a 5-2 advantage. The Nugget defense was active early holding the Celtics to 2-12 shooting midway through the first quarter. Michael Porter Jr. scored nine of the Nuggets first sixteen points after going scoreless in the first meeting between the Celtics.

After an 11-0 Nugget scoring run, the Celtics battled back with a couple baskets inside the paint. Following a Facu three extending the lead to ten, Monte Morris and PJ Dozier entered the game with 4:00 remaining in the first quarter. Tristian Thompson swatted MPJ at the rim causing Michael to lose his shoe, but Boston could not take advantage missing a layup at the other end. While MPJ remained out of bounds fixing his shoe, Dozier hit an open three stretching the lead to twelve at 22-10.

Denver held the Celtic tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scoreless in the first quarter shooting a combined 0-8. As a team, Boston shot 6-25 from the field. The Nuggets held a 27-16 lead at the end of the quarter. MPJ led the scoring charge with nine and not far behind was WIll Barton with seven.

After missing a couple jump shots, Dozier gave the Nuggets their first points of the second quarter with a driving left handed layup. The talented Celtic pair could not be held down for long. Jayson Tatum scored his first points at the free throw line after Millsap fouled him on a three pointer. Jaylen Brown then put Zeke Nnaji in a blender for a spinning layup plus the foul. After another Tatum basket the Nugget lead shrunk to five at 31-26.

Boston was aggressive getting to the free throw line obtaining twelve attempts compared to zero for Denver. The Nuggets first free throw attempts came at 6:50 in the second gifting Aaron Gordon his first two points of the game. Nikola Jokic was scoreless to that point, but led the team in plus/minus at +12.

Facu gave the Nuggets a 38-29 advantage after he hit his second three. The intensity of Denver’s defense showed as they rotated well behind good Celtic ball movement. Frustration started to set in for Boston as Jayson Tatum committed a technical foul. Jokic’s first points of the game came at the 4:32 mark in the second hitting a floater in the middle of the lane. Although he only had four shot attempts to that point, Jokic tallied five rebounds and six assists.

Yet another Jokic technical helped Boston crawl back within nine at 43-34. Facu helped ignite some energy in the arena gliding for the offensive rebound and assist to Gordon for a reverse slam. Towards the end of the quarter, Marcus Smart swished a step back three, and Tatum ended the half with a floater. Denver led Boston 51-45 behind MPJ’s 13 points and six rebounds, while Smart and Tatum helped reduce the lead with 11 points each.

Seventeen seconds into the third quarter, Boston coach Brad Stevens challenged a Robert Williams basket interference call in which he would lose. Nikola Jokic followed with a high-arching jumper for two. After blocking a Tatum layup, Porter sailed to the rim for a George Gervin finger roll layup. Jokic increased the Nugget lead to ten with a floater, but Walker answered with a driving layup.

Denver’s lead was 66-58 when Jokic assisted to Barton for a contested reverse layup. On the next possession, Jokic threw a no look lob to Porter Jr. for the one handed dunk. After a quiet first half, Nikola caught fire scoring 14 points in the third quarter. His offensive rebound plus the put-back layup gave the Nuggets a 76-62 advantage.

Facu gave the Nuggets an unexpected scoring punch hitting another three, and to that point, he was shooting perfect going 5-5 with 14 points. After three turnovers to end the quarter, the Celtics got out in transition for a couple driving layups. At the end of three, Boston battled back to within five at 79-74.

Two Celtic baskets from Walker and Brown made it a one point game to start the fourth. They went on a 15-0 scoring run, and took their first lead of the game with two free throws from Romeo Langford. Boston took all the momentum pushing their scoring run to 20-1 when JaMychal Green fouled Tatum on a three point attempt. The Nuggets last field goal came at 2:17 remaining in the third quarter The score was 85-80 Celtics when Michael Malone finally put some of the starters back in. Monte Morris gave the Nuggets their first basket of the quarter with a mid-range jumper, but Tatum answered again with his own jumper.

Tatum expanded the Celtic lead to eight with a contested three pointer influencing a Denver timeout. The Nuggets seemed very lethargic and discombobulated after the timeout. They could not buy a basket, and gave up easy transition layups. Jokic got his triple double, but was pulled from the game at the 4:41 mark after the Celtics gained a 96-82 lead. Eight minutes into the fourth quarter, Denver scored only three points.

Denver’s bench really struggled scoring a combined 14 points shooting 6-26. Millsap and Green both had plus/minus’s of -23. Morris was a -21 and Dozier a -27. Jayson Tatum could not be stopped in the fourth quarter. He led the game in scoring with 28.

Denver wins 4 out of 5 on the home stand, but they will have to recover from this disheartening loss quickly. They travel to Golden State tomorrow for an 8:00 MST matchup with Steph Curry and the Warriors.

Stat Leaders

Points: Jayson Tatum – 28

Assists: Nikola Jokic – 11

Rebounds: Michael Porter Jr. – 11

Player of the Game: Jayson Tatum – 28 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists on 9-23 shooting and 8-8 from the free throw line