Keys to the Game: Celtics 111, Nuggets 110
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
Al Horford told Celtics.com Monday morning that he just tries to “make the right play” when the ball is in his hands.
He did exactly that when the game was on the line Monday night, and with a lot of help from Jaylen Brown, that play is why the Celtics were able to upend the Nuggets 111-110 in Denver.
“A tremendous play by Al,” Brad Stevens said after the game to describe the play, on which Horford drew his defender, drove to the basket and kicked out to Brown for a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner.
Brown cashed in on the attempt, albeit after a few bounces around the rim, to give the Celtics a three-point edge that was enough to hold Denver off for the win.
Horford described how he saw the play unfold in his eyes.
“I just saw him (Nikola Jokic) closing out and I was like, ‘I need to take advantage of this,” Horford said as he described his shot fake from beyond the 3-point line that opened up his drive to the basket. “So I was driving it, and I was going to go finish strong in the paint, and at the last second the guy (Trey Lyles) came and helped and I saw JB in the corner and just made the right play, and he knocked it down.”
Seeing a trend here? “Just made the right play.” That’s what Horford does, time and time again.
Not everyone notices when he does so during the first quarter, or maybe on a relatively standard play during the second half. Everyone will notice Monday night, however, because this play gave the Celtics the win.
Jayson Tatum is back!
Tatum, who struggled through the majority of January, bounced back in a big way Monday night in Denver. The rookie forward scored 20 points Monday night to help lead the Celtics to their win over the Nuggets.
It had been more than a month since Tatum last broke the 20-point barrier. The last instance came on Christmas Day against Washington. Monday night in Denver, he was able to score 20 on only 13 shot attempts because he canned eight of them, including two from beyond the arc.
Tatum recognized after the game that he hadn’t been playing well of late. He said he wanted to play with more aggression, and he did so against Denver. He drove to the basket for multiple dunks and let shots fly when he was open.
Tatum didn’t stop at just scoring, either. He also stuffed the stat sheet with six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a blocked shot. That all-around performance helped Boston to outscore Denver by 10 points while he was on the court, which marked the second-best plus/minus rating of the game.
Box Score Nuggets
- All five of Denver's starters scored in double-figures, led by Nikola Jokic's 24 points.
- Boston shot an impressive 17-for-36 (47.2 percent) from long range, with six players making at least half of their attempts.
- Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 27 points.
- Irving, Horford and Terry Rozier tied for the Celtics high total in assists with six apiece.
- Jamal Murray led the game with eight helpers.
- Boston's bench totaled 39 points, led by Marcus Morris' 14 and Daniel Theis' 11.
- Rozier led the Celtics in rebounding with nine boards.
- Jokic tallied the game's only double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
- Boston led by as many as 20 points.
- Theis finished with the game's top plus/minus rating at plus-16.
- The Celtics committed only nine turnovers.
- Trey Lyles led all reserves with 20 points.
- The teams totaled a whopping 59 assists, 31 by Denver and 28 by Boston.
Quote of the Night
I thought we looked gassed at the end of the game.
Brad Stevens on the Celtics closing out a four-game road trip in the Mile-High City.