Saying the Celtics got whupped by the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday wouldn’t really be accurate, because that would have required the Celtics to actually show up.
While the Celtics might have been at the Pepsi Center in body, they weren’t there in spirit as the Nuggets dressed down the sputtering Celts 129-98. Boston (13-22) suffered its worst loss of the season, both by margin of defeat and total points surrendered, and looked utterly unfazed by it. Most of the Celtics did not seem to even care.
Jeff Green came out hot, as he occasionally does, dropping 11 points in the first quarter to make it look like the Celtics might make it interesting for a while. They didn’t. Green contributed just six points the rest of the way and joined in a teamwide dedication to not defending the 3-point line. The Nuggets (17-17) hit 14 threes, including seven by Randy Foye, who dropped a game-high 23 points.
The worst moment of all came when Vitor Faverani, a 25-year-old rookie who has neither the right nor the reason to be lackadaisical at any time, had the ball knocked out of his hands. The ball bounced twice before going out of bounds, while Faverani stood and watched. Possession was awarded to Denver, which was probably the wrong call from an officiating standpoint but the right call from a karmic standpoint. Faverani and the Celtics didn’t deserve the ball, or the win.
Not everyone in a green uniform was a complete disgrace, to be fair. Keith Bogans, finally freed from his spot at the end of the bench due to the Courtney Lee trade, hit the first two shots he took and all three free throws he attempted. Since going scoreless for the first 33 games, Bogans now has 12 points in the last two games.
Gerald Wallace also played relatively hard, if not relatively well, with four points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. More than stats, though, Wallace ran hard to catch up when the Nuggets ran their fast break and set a couple of solid screens to open up teammates for shots. Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn’t happy with the team’s overall effort, but he had to at least be appreciative of the professionalism shown by two of his veterans.
Jared Sullinger wouldn’t have lasted a minute in a 1990s Heat-Knicks playoff series with the alleged flagrant fouls he has committed this season. None of his fouls have been hard enough.
In a growing, disappointing trend, Sullinger was called for another ticky-tack flagrant foul in the third quarter Tuesday. Trailing J.J. Hickson in secondary transition, Sullinger lowered his hand and blocked Hickson’s shot hard out of bounds. Sullinger got a lot of arm, too, which should have resulted in a foul. But Hickson was stumbling before he got the ball, and he went down awkwardly.
The way Hickson toppled drew the ire of his teammates and the referees, who issued a flagrant-one, the less serious of the two types of flagrant fouls. It was an obnoxiously light flagrant, so Sullinger apparently decided to show the Nuggets — and the officials — what a real flagrant looks like a few possessions later.
Sullinger got the ball on the right block with his back to Denver forward Kenneth Faried. As Sullinger bulled toward the middle of the lane, he intentionally raised his right elbow and caught Faried in the head. The refs rightly issued Sullinger’s second flagrant foul, which resulted in an ejection.
Sullinger has five flagrant fouls this season, tied with Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers for the most in the NBA. One more and Sullinger receives an automatic one-game suspension from the league.
Watch Sullinger’s flagrant fouls in the video below and judge them for yourself.
Jerryd Bayless‘ Celtics debut, like the game as a whole, was far from memorable. The journeyman guard, who came over from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Lee in a trade that was finalized Tuesday morning, went 3-for-11 from the field for six points. He wore Lee’s old No. 11 on his green-and-black jersey.
Bayless did have some encouraging moments. He had three assists and no turnovers, showing that he can spell Jordan Crawford — and, eventually, Rajon Rondo — at point guard when need be. Despite three steals, however, he clearly is no defensive stopper. If Bayless and Crawford, two defensive sieves, end up on the court together for any extended stretch, watch out. Opposing guards could have free reign to the hoop.