Fourth quarter, :54.1, Nuggets 96-91: Garnett was the equivalent of a defensive tackle getting lit up by a pulling guard when Gallinari lowered his shoulder and leveled him as Garnett attempted to set a screen. Garnett hit both ensuing free throws, but Allen was unable to drop what would have been the tying 3.
Faried got the rebound and was fouled by Rondo. Faried hit both free throws and he literally has not missed — 5-for-5 from the field, 8-for-8 from the foul line.
Fourth quarter, 2:26, Nuggets 92-87: The comeback was just about complete until Pierce was the victim of some bad luck.
Pierce pulled the C's within two points at 87-85, but on the Nuggets' next possession Faried appeared to go over Pierce's back for a rebound. Pierce was whistled for the foul, his sixth, and he had to leave the game.
Faried hit both free throws and Bass hit a jumper to bail out the Celtics in an ugly sequence, but the Celtics forgot about Ty Lawson. The little guard has hit a number of big shots for the Nuggets in the fourth quarter and his 3-pointer from the corner may have been the dagger.
Fourth quarter, 5:43, Nuggets 87-81: The fourth quarter is a different world than the first three. The final 12 minutes can turn into a scrum, especially when the Celtics are involved.
Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and Daniels slammed the brakes on this game and the Celtics slowly worked their way back in. Rondo created a pair of baskets by Garnett to get Boston within six points, as close as they have been since more than four minutes remained in the second quarter.
Fourth quarter, 8:45, Nuggets 85-75: The Celtics played the first three-plus minutes of the fourth quarter about as well as they had played all game. For their efforts, they made up a grand total of two points on the scoreboard.
Daniels had not really done anything meaningful this season, but his 11 minutes in this game have featured an entirely different player. Daniels was active on offense, getting a dunk and a trip to the foul line, to get up to eight points. That's his most since Jan. 23.
End of third quarter, Nuggets 80-68: The deficit is not that much, but 12 points seems like a chasm for the Celtics.
Boston got as close as 11 points late in the third quarter and the statistics tell the story of a team playing well. The Celtics shot 49 percent from the field and had 22 assists on their 30 field goals. But that's the thing with teams like the Nuggets. They let opponents run and get nice stat lines, with the trust that they can out-run and out-stat the opponent. It doesn't always work, but against deliberate teams like the C's it can be a winning strategy.
Third quarter, 2:49, Nuggets 79-64: If teams were not already aware that the way to beat the Celtics is to force them to play fast and loose, the last two games will hammer home that lesson. The next three opponents on the schedule — Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia — all can play comfortably at this pace, and if they don't try to push the tempo against the Celtics, there should be severe questioning of their coaching staffs' competence.
The Nuggets' lead reached 17 points and their advantage on the boards went to 33-to-16.
Third quarter, 7:21, Nuggets 69-56: Remember what we said about Afflalo not making an impact? Forget it.
Afflalo scored seven of Denver's first 14 points on the second half as the Nuggets protected their 13-point advantage.
Halftime, Nuggets 55-42: The Celtics did not attack the basket or hit the boards, so it was no surprise that they rarely got to the free throw line in the first half. Boston attempted only three foul shots in the first 24 minutes while Denver got 13 attempts, hitting 10. The Celtics had only 12 rebounds in the first half, only four more total rebounds than the Nuggets had on the offensive end alone.
Denver totaled 28 rebounds, 20 defensive and eight offensive, in the first half.
The Good: Danilo Gallinari is already a better player than Carmelo Anthony. There, I said it. The Nuggets forward, who was the centerpiece of what Denver received in return for Anthony in the trade last season, scored a game-high 15 points in the first half with three 3-pointers in five attempts and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. He also had three assists to zero turnovers. And unlike Anthony, he passed the ball without looking like it caused him physical pain to do so. … Kenneth Faried tore up the Celtics in the same manner as Anderson Varejao, Tyler Hansbrough and others. The rookie out of Morehead State nabbed 11 boards and scored eight points off pure effort. … Rajon Rondo would like to run step for step with Denver. He just doesn't have the horses with him to do it. The Celtics point guard had 10 assists and two turnovers in the first half while scoring four points. … Kevin Garnett was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field with five rebounds and played solid defense, as usual, but he can't do i all on his own. If anyone on the Celtics boxed out or helped Garnett on the defensive glass, it was difficult to tell.
The Bad: Brandon Bass had difficulty with the very different styles of defense played by Gallinari and Faried, even if neither is a particularly accomplished defender. Bass missed all four of his shots, grabbed only one rebound, committed two turnovers and had a personal foul in 13 minutes of play. … Arron Afflalo is a hard-nosed two-way player, but despite some OK defense he did not make much of an impact for the Nuggets. He scored four points on 2-for-7 shooting with one rebound and one assist.
The So-so: Ray Allen missed both of his 3-point attempts and was 2-for-5 overall for five points. We've seen this before, though. Allen often follows a poor first half with a blistering third quarter, so we can wait to see how the next 12 minutes go before passing judgment.
Second quarter, 2:45, Nuggets 48-36: Danilo Gallinari threw a behind-the-back pass that was not quite Rondo-esque. It wasn't far off, either.
Gallinari tracked down an overthrown pass by Miller and dribbled toward the corner. As he did, he saw a flashing Faried coming down the lane and tossed a pass behind his back to Faried for the layup, which stretched Denver's lead to 12 points.
Marquis Daniels made an appearances with five points off the bench, but his efforts only helped the Celtics close the gap to eight points (and eventually six points) as this game grew quicker and quicker — and threatened to get farther away from the Celtics.
Second quarter, 8:00, Nuggets 38-27: Miller has been playing this game professionally for more than 12 years, and the veteran guard knows every trick in the book. Miller lurked behind Garnett on defense while Allen dribbled the ball, making it appear Bradley was open. When Allen tried to pass to Bradley, Miller flashed in front of the pass for a steal leading to a dunk by Corey Brewer.
Slowing down the pace doesn't do much good for the Celtics if they just turn it over in the half court. Few backup point guards can make a team pay for minute mistakes as effectively as Miller can.
Second quarter, 8:55, Nuggets 32-27: By forcing the Nuggets to defend in the half court, the Celtics muscled their way back within two possessions. With Garnett posting up to attempt a fallaway jumper over Harrington and to dish to Avery Bradley for a reverse layup, the C's created the deliberate pace the Nuggets hate to play.
End of first quarter, Nuggets 29-22: The Nuggets succeeded in getting the Celtics to speed up, and although it's only a six-point game, this doesn't bode well for the Celtics unless they control the pace.
Boston put up 24 field goals in the first quarter and for the second straight night they got off to a blistering start. The Celtics average just a shade more than 19 field goal attempts per quarter, so five extra shots with just a 42 percent shooting percentage means they are hurrying.
First quarter, 5:31, Nuggets 16-12: With their blitzing offensive attack, the Nuggets were able to take only a four-point lead over the Celtics in the opening minutes. Normally, that wouldn't be such a big deal for the C's. In this game, though, it's extremely problematic.
The Nuggets go as deep as any team in the league, with two of their best players — forward Al Harrington and point guard Andre Miller — coming off the bench. That makes it imperative for the Celtics' starters to make as much headway as possible before Denver's second unit takes over. Merely keeping pace is not enough.
9:10 p.m.: The NBA's detractors love to say nobody in the league plays defense. There are three players on these teams who prove that's totally and utterly false.
Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets' popular and energetic rookie, is a relentless rebounder and gives full effort on every play. He does not yet understand fundamental defensive concepts, though, and at the NBA level that can mean the difference between a long career and a trip straight out of the league once that rookie guaranteed deal is up.
"I think teams are focusing on his 'rookieness,'" Denver coach George Karl admitted of Faried this week, according to the Denver Post.
McGee, who Denver traded for this week and will not play agains the Celtics, is Exhibit A. His athleticism and size make him a tailor-made All-Defensive Team player, but he is devoid of basketball I.Q. Greg Stiemsma has struggled with his defensive rotations all season long and is a work in progress against the pick and roll, but the Celtics big man has shown improvements since the injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox forced him into extended duty.
At lower levels of the game, size and athleticism can make a much bigger difference. But in the NBA, where everyone is so big and so athletic, how well a player grasps the fundamentals separates the Kevin Garnetts from the JaVale McGees.
8:55 p.m. ET: The new guy in town, center JaVale McGee, has had success this season against the Celtics. In three games as a member of the Wizards, McGee averaged 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. About the only thing McGee hasn't done against Boston this season is win.
This game would represent McGee's best chance at finally getting a win over the green, but that will have to wait. McGee remains inactive while Timofey Mozgov, aka Blake Griffin's No. 1 victim, starting at center for the Nuggets.
Al Harrington, the Nuggets' leading scorer in the clutch, banged his knee Thursday against Oklahoma City and was questionable for this game. He appears to be active.
Paul Pierce is slated to start after turning his ankle with just under seven minutes to go in Friday's loss to the Kings.
The projected starting lineups are below.
9 a.m. ET: A road trip that had gotten off to an overall good start for the Celtics hit a speed bump Friday with a 25-point loss to the Kings. For one night, the Celtics did not look so smart for not making a big move at the trade deadline.
They won't have much time to dwell on the loss. After catching a late-night/early-morning flight to Denver, the Celtics take on the Nuggets in the fifth game of this eight-game road trip. The Nuggets will have a new look after their deadline stunner in which they sent centerpiece Nene to the Wizards for JaVale McGee.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set for a 9 p.m. ET tip-off.
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