Saturday, January 20, 2024

Nuggets 102, Celtics 100: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray hand C's first home loss of season

The Celtics fell to the Denver Nuggets 102-100 Friday night in their first loss at TD Garden of the season.

Jayson Tatum, who missed a one-legged fadeaway field goal attempt in the final seconds to possibly send the game into overtime, finished with 22 points on 9-of-24 shooting, including going just 1-of-8 from 3-point territory and eight rebounds.
"I think I kind of rushed it, and that's on me," Tatum said in his postgame comments. "I had more time than I gave myself."
Derrick White (ankle) returned from his one-game absence to net a team-high 24 points on 9-of-18 from the field and 5-of-12 from deep to along with five assists, while Kristaps Porzingis (knee) also returned to the lineup to record 21 points (6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-5 from 3) and eight rebounds for the C's -- that are still a league-best 32-10.

Jamal Murray had a game-high 35 points on 15-of-21 shot attempts, eight rebounds and five assists, while Nikola Jokic nearly notched a triple-double of 34 points (14-of-22), 12 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Nuggets -- as they snapped Boston's 20-game home win-streak and improved to 29-14 overall.
"They played for themselves and they played for other people," Denver's coach Michael Malone said his postgame presser. "It was high-level basketball from two All-Star players."
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and eight ties, the Celtics led by as many as 12 (the largest margin of the night) and were ahead 61-55 at the break.

Denver used a 12-4 run to open the second half, before the C's responded with a 9-0 spurt to regain their lead and end the third quarter with an 82-81 advantage.

Murray caught fire in the final frame hitting five of his first six shots to put the Nuggets up 95-91. Boston once again got back in front with a 7-0 run, capped off by a Jaylen Brown (13 points) driving layup (98-95) with 3:51 left to play.

Jokic knocked down back-to-back shots and the Celtics went scoreless on the next three possessions, before Michael Porter Jr. (13 points, eight rebounds) had a put-back off a Jokic missed 26-footer as the shot clock was set to expire and Denver led 101-98 with 2:50 remaining in regulation.

A Tatum dunk got Boston within one after Brown missed a pair of free throws and a 3-point attempt off a Porzingis offensive rebound -- which led to a missed White 3-pointer off a Jrue Holiday (seven points) offensive board.

Aaron Gordon went 1-of-2 from the free throw line and a double lane violation gave Boston an opportunity to tie or go ahead with 13.1 seconds left and down 102-100, but after two timeouts used in that span -- Tatum couldn't convert a 17-foot field goal attempt.
"Both teams were countering each other," Murray told reporters after the game. "Both throwing haymakers and we were able to have the final punch."
The Celtics head back out on the road to face Ime Udoka and the Houston Rockets (20-21) once again, Sunday night. 

Game Notes:

Boston were 42.7% from the field, including 14-of-44 (31.8%) from behind the arc, while the Nuggets were 51.9% from the floor and 8-of-31 (25.8%) from long distance. The C's were out-rebounded 47-38 but won the points in the paint battle 40-36. The Celtics had 21 assists (three turnovers) on 38 baskets and Denver dished out 20 dimes (11 turnovers) on 42 mad shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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