BOSTON — Need a win? Play the Denver Nuggets.
That’s been the recipe for NBA success of late, and it held true again Wednesday night. This particular victory did not come easily, though, as the Celtics outlasted the Nuggets at TD Garden by a final score of 104-100.
It was Boston’s second consecutive win and their second over Denver in less than two weeks. The Nuggets, meanwhile, continue their free fall through the Western Conference. They still boast a relatively respectable 19-31 record but now have lost 11 of their last 12 games.
Jared Sullinger was removed from the starting lineup and benched for the first quarter after showing up late for the second time in less than a week. He was on the floor to begin the second quarter but missed his first five shots before recording his first points more than halfway through the frame.
Sullinger found his stroke from there, however, scoring seven points on his next three shots to help pace the Celtics to a 61-51 halftime lead. He also hit a key three in the final seconds of the third quarter and did some nice work on the boards down the stretch.
THE CHAMPS ARE HERE
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and seven of his players — including Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler — were honored on the parquet after the first quarter, capping off their day of revelry through the streets of Boston.
The Celtics followed up the ceremony by outscoring the Nuggets 35-22 in the second quarter. Coincidence? (Yes.)
Marcus Thornton was on fire off the bench for the Celtics, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and tying Avery Bradley with a team-high 17 points in just 20 minutes. Thornton and Bradley were two of five C’s to reach double figures, joined by Sullinger, Jae Crowder and Tyler Zeller (all with 14 points).
Rookie point guard Marcus Smart managed just four points in his second game since returning to the starting lineup but racked up 10 rebounds and eight assists in a career-high 41 minutes.
The Celtics struggled as a team from the floor in the third quarter, going just 8-for-29 and allowing the Nuggets to get to within five heading into the final 12 minutes. Point guard Ty Lawson was huge all night for Denver, finishing with a game-high 23 points and eight assists.
The game was tied 98-98 with 1:25 to play when Bradley nailed a jumper off an inbounds pass to put Boston back up two. Denver came up empty on its ensuing possession, but a loose ball foul by Sullinger at the other end sent Danilo Galinari to the line for two free throws. He sank both, knotting the score yet again.
Sullinger then redeemed himself, however, by sinking two foul shots of his own, and Crowder’s steal on the ensuing inbound pass allowed the Celtics to salt the game away.
Up next: The Celtics have another winnable game next on the docket, as they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images