A little more than a week after outlasting the Nuggets in a triple-overtime slugfest in Boston, the Celtics fell to the Nuggets in the first game of their post-All-Star run. Jeff Green dropped a team-high 20 points, but the Celtics could only keep up with the Nuggets’ high-octane attack for so long. Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson each scored 26 points to share the honors as the game’s high scorer.
Fourth quarter, :20.7, Nuggets 94-90: Garnett missed a contested bank shot, and had to foul intentionally. It looks like their post-All-Star schedule will begin with a loss.
Fourth quarter, :40.5, Nuggets 94-90: The Celtics are alive, barely, and do not expect Rivers to credit the referees to helping him out. The Celtics worked for a pivotal defensive stop, but Garnett was called for a foul on the rebound. Then, after Faried missed both free throws, Bass gathered the board and Rivers begged frantically for a timeout before one was finally granted, right before Bass lost the ball.
Rivers is not going to buy this crew dinner. That is for sure.
Fourth quarter, 2:35, Nuggets 93-86: Legs don’t lie.
Garnett drew a foul right when the Celtics needed it, heading to the line after the Nuggets pushed their lead to five points. The Big Ticket came through — by short-arming both shots.
Garnett and the Celtics were then outworked on the glass by the Nuggets, with Faried converting a putback to give Denver a seven-point lead. The Celtics’ road-heavy second-half schedule does not look to be off to a roaring start.
Fourth quarter, 4:47, Nuggets 89-84: Green delivered probably the highlight of the game, as he often does. He chased down Brewer on the break to swat away the layup attempt and preserve Boston’s momentum. The Celtics briefly tied the game on a corner three by Bradley.
But one highlight does not make up for several defensive lapses. Green gave Iguodala, then Gallo wide open looks at threes, and by pure luck he managed to contest Iguodala into an airball. He was not as lucky with Gallo, who swished it home.
Green then failed to help Garnett, who had rotated to help Bradley’s man, opening up Lawson for an easy putback after the initial miss.
Fourth quarter, 8:30, Nuggets 80-79: Doc Rivers must be happy he will not see Corey Brewer again this season. The free-shooting swingman off the bench blitzed Boston with a personal 6-4 spurt between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth. The Celtics were able to chip away, leading to a pair of baskets by Green to pull within one, as the teams exchange back-and-forth runs.
End of third quarter, Nuggets 78-70: This could be the fade we were talking about. The Celtics managed only 20 points in the third quarter, their lowest-scoring quarter of the game, but more importantly they were outscored by nine points. The shots that swished earlier in the game are clanking short a lot more often.
Do not think that the extended break because of the All-Star game makes a difference, either. No matter how fresh or fit a person is, the low-oxygen air of the Rockies can have a tough effect on their lungs. The Celtics will need to dig deep to overcome that — plus an eight-point deficit — in the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 2:51, Nuggets 73-67: For a guy who stands only 5-foot-11 in sneakers, Lawson has mastered the pump-fake, lean-in, draw-foul technique. He caught Pierce, one of that technique’s originators, to get to the line in a stretch when both teams marched to the foul line.
Lawson attempted six free throws over a 1:10 stretch, helping Denver take and extend its lead. Gallo’s triple stretched the advantage to six points, the most the Nuggets have led by.
Third quarter, 6:00, Celtics 62-60: Ugh, who is in for three more overtimes? Neither team can put the other away, with Gallo, Koufous and Lawson scoring three straight baskets to pull Denver into the lead. Still, the legs have not shown signs of wearing out yet.
Halftime, Celtics 50-49: The Nuggets might have the Celtics right where they want them.
True, the Celtics lead by one point, but there is still another half to go — knowing these teams’ history, possibly more than that. In the thin mountain air, the Nuggets love to stay close with their opponent, comfortable in the belief that their lungs are used to the decreased oxygen. If the Celtics took it the least bit easy over the weekend, they could fade as the second half goes on.
Lee and Bradley certainly did not look winded early, sharing the team lead with 12 points each. Lee’s jumper right before the final buzzer assured Boston led at the break. Gallo, Lawson and Miller are all in double digits already for the Nuggets, who shot just 46 percent from the field despite committing only four turnovers and going 4-for-9 from deep.
The Celtics kept up with Denver’s pace, taking 43 shots to Denver’s 41, and outrebounded the Nuggets 23-19. Bass and Garnett matched Faried, a rebounding animal (or “Manimal,” even), with seven boards.
Second quarter, 4:29, game tied 39-39: One thing we know for sure about the Nuggets is that they will not go away. Even after a 9-0 run by the Celtics pushed Boston ahead by eight, the Nuggets kept on running. Lawson and Miller each converted a 3-pointer and Lawson pushed the pace to score a contested layup over Green to knot up the score.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 29-25: So far, the Celtics have done an outstanding job of preventing the Nuggets from doing what they do best: score in the paint.
Aside from a putback layup by Faried, the Nuggets have not been able to crack the interior of Boston’s defense in this quarter. The result is missed shots leading to open-court opportunities for the Celtics, essentially beating the Nuggets at their own game.
Jeff Green gave Denver a taste of its own medicine when he tossed an alley-oop to Chris Wilcox on the break. Miller and JaVale McGee could not have done it better.
End of first quarter, Celtics 22-21: Bradley was blistering hot, but Andre Miller came off the bench to show the youngster that the old man can still do some things at 36 years old. Miller bullied Bradley for two straight buckets in the paint, the second one a three-point play, to pull the Nuggets back into it.
After one quarter, Bradley is the high man with 12 points. More than that, he is clearly looking for his own shot. He took eight shots in the opening frame, tying Gallo for the game high.
First quarter, 2:33, Celtics 20-14: Thanks to Denver’s up-tempo style, there should be lots of rebound opportunities for both sides. Bass has been the big beneficiary early, hauling in six boards in the first 10 minutes. He averages just five per game, so this should pad his average.
Nobody looks as sharp as Bradley so far, though. The speedy guard burst off a screen by Collins for a slashing layup and now has a game-high 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Bradley might actually enjoy the Nuggets’ style of play more than they do.
First quarter, 5:42, Celtics 14-11: It took almost half the quarter, but somebody other than Gallinari finally scored for Denver. Gallo was responsible for the Nuggets’ first seven points before Lawson dropped a lucky jump shot from the right elbow.
Even then, Lawson’s shot did not want to fall. It spun around the rim twice and bounced off the backboard before finally toilet-bowling through the net.
Meanwhile, Garnett seemed pretty surprised early that his opponent was actually playing defense. The All-Star game must have made him too comfortable. But while Garnett missed his first two shots, Bradley and Lee came out firing. The Celtics’ starting backcourt combined for 10 points in the early going to give Boston the lead.
8:24 p.m.: If you still have an old Eric Williams jersey lying around, here is some good news. Terrence Williams, who will join the Celtics once the paperwork to free him from his contract in China, will wear No. 55. That is very thoughtful of him.
6:29 p.m.: For a day when absolutely nothing relevant happened, life certainly was busy in Celtics-land.
Even after Danny Ainge declared that a major deal was unlikely, reports persisted about Paul Pierce being dealt to Atlanta and Jason Terry or Leandro Barbosa possibly being part of a salary purge to get Boston beneath the luxury tax line. But even if a deal makes perfect sense, it will be hard for the Celtics to pull off any trade given their current situation.
The roster will remain a little thin when the Celtics take the court in Denver. Terrence Williams, who was added Monday, is not expected to be in uniform on Tuesday. Some formalities remain to be ironed out before the former lottery pick can make his Celtics debut.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics ruin everything.
A little over a week ago, the Nuggets were just rolling along, winners of nine straight and looking like one of the most formidable teams in the Western Conference. Since dropping a triple-overtime game in Boston, though, the Nuggets have seen their losing streak grow to three games, and they’ve lurched into the post-All-Star break schedule just hoping to regain some momentum.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are expected to be in uniform for the Celtics, although that could change before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Celtics added journeyman Terrence Williams on Monday, but that is unlikely to be their last move as they try to add pieces to reinforce a roster devastated by injuries. If Danny Ainge’s history tells us anything, it is that nobody is off limits if he feels it could help the team.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. ET.