Keys to the Game: Celtics 131, Nuggets 112

Key Moment

The Denver Nuggets nearly dug their way out of an 18-point hole Friday night, pulling within one point of the Boston Celtics late in the third quarter. But before Denver could climb out of the depths of the mine, Boston slammed the door shut.

The C’s hung onto their 88-87 lead by going on a 23-8 run over a six-minute span from the 2:32 mark in the third quarter to the 8:29 mark of the final frame. They closed out the third quarter on a 9-4 run, then opened the fourth with a 14-4 stretch before coasting to a 131-112 victory at TD Garden.

Luke Kornet started off the run with a dunk, which was followed by a Sam Hauser 3-pointer. Kornet then knocked down a 10-foot jumper and just like that, the Celtics were off and running again.

Al Horford was the main catalyst of Boston’s stretch at the start of the fourth quarter, as he delivered nine points in the first three and a half minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers to close out the run.

Key Player

Although Jayson Tatum led the game in scoring Friday night with 34 points, it was Al Horford who was the biggest difference-maker for the C’s.

The 16-year veteran scored a season-high 21 points while knocking down a career-high six 3-pointers on eight attempts. It was Horford’s highest-scoring regular-season game since a 21-point performance on March 3, 2022, against Memphis.

Horford’s best stretch came in the fourth quarter when he scored 12 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from long range.

The 36-year-old also grabbed seven rebounds, which was just one shy of Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic’s total. Horford finished the game with a plus/minus of plus-11, while the reigning two-time MVP finished with a minus-14.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 34 points while knocking down 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.
  • Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points.
  • Al Horford scored a season-high 21 points while canning a regular-season career-high six 3-pointers.
  • There were only 13 turnovers for the Celtics (seven) and Nuggets (six) combined.
  • The Celtics led by as many as 19 points, while the Nuggets never led by more than one.
  • Payton Pritchard tied his career-high with four offensive rebounds.
  • Pritchard also scored 11 points, nearly tripling his previous season-high of four.
  • Jaylen Brown neared triple-double territory with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
  • Marcus Smart was a game-best plus-28 in 24 minutes of action.
  • Boston shot 55.6 percent (50-of-90) from the field.
  • Tatum became the youngest Celtic to reach 8,000 career points at 24 years, 253 days old.

Quote of the Night

"Guys have bought into making each other better whether they have the ball or not.”

– Joe Mazzulla on the Celtics' thriving offense of late