Rapid reaction: Nuggets 97, Celtics 90
Rapid reaction following the Boston Celtics' 97-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Danilo Gallinari (26 points, five rebounds, five assists) and Ty Lawson (26 points, six rebounds, six assists) led the Nuggets, who came on strong in the second half to eventually overpower Boston. Denver outscored Boston 48-40 over the final 24 minutes, bolstered by some late offensive rebounding from Kenneth Faried, who finished with seven points and 16 boards for Denver. Jeff Green delivered a season-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting for the Celtics, while Avery Bradley chipped in 17 points and Courtney Lee added 15.
TURNING POINT NO. 1: THIRD QUARTER WOES: The Celtics carried a 50-49 lead into halftime after shooting over 51 percent from the field over the opening 24 minutes and keeping the pace at a rate they were comfortable with. Boston moved the ball consistently and attacked the rim, routinely finding open shooters. But the progress Boston made over the first two quarters was quickly erased in the third frame, as the Celtics' ball movement evaporated and they shot just 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) while allowing the Nuggets to score 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Denver took 14 free throws in the third quarter to just three for Boston and carried a 78-70 advantage into the final frame.
TURNING POINT #2: NUGGETS SURGE LATE: The Celtics refused to fade early in the fourth, as Green came through with back-to-back buckets and brought Boston within a point with 8:32 to play. Green added a layup-saving block on Corey Brewer shortly after (more on this in a minute) and Bradley knocked down a right corner 3-pointer with 5:37 remaining that knotted the score at 84. Denver responded right away, though, and opened its lead back up to seven with just under three minutes to play off of a Faried offensive rebound and putback layup. Ultimately, the Nuggets closed the game on a 13-6 run after Bradley's game-tying 3-pointer.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: In addition to his fourth-quarter buckets, Green thwarted a Brewer layup bid with just over seven minutes remaining that would've given Denver a six-point lead. Brewer cruised in for what he thought was an open layup and Green swooped in from behind to slam the ball off the glass, which led to Paul Pierce feeding Bradley for an open layup on the other end and brought Boston within two at 83-81.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Celtics didn't start the second half of the season the way they wanted, and will likely walk away a bit frustrated after they spoiled such a solid first-half effort. Whether or not the high altitude played a role in Boston fading over the final 24 minutes, Doc Rivers will probably point to the lack of ball movement in the second half as the main reason for the Celtics' undoing. Still, Boston didn't play poorly overall, and the loss should do little do alter whatever plans president of basketball operations Danny Ainge currently has in place leading up to Thursday's trade deadline. The Celtics will have a chance to bounce back from Tuesday's loss right away, as they'll head to Los Angeles for a nationally televised showdown with the Lakers on Wednesday night.
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