Comeback C’s Strike Again With Mountainous Win in Denver
The Boston Celtics had only 14 minutes to erase a 14-point deficit in Denver Sunday afternoon, which, at the time, did not seem feasible against a red-hot Nuggets team that was in search of its ninth straight victory.
However, the Celtics didn’t just defy the odds; they destroyed them, as they erupted on a 40-8 run to close out the game, earning a 105-87 win at Ball Arena.
“I think we just picked up the intensity,” said Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics in scoring and rebounding with a 28-point, 10-rebound double-double. “I think we communicated a lot better. We started switching a little bit more, I think that helped us out too.”
As for what specifically sparked Boston’s run, there were numerous factors that came into play.
The first notable turning point was substituting Grant Williams into the game at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter. Williams may not be known for stuffing the stat sheet, but he is recognized as an energy producer, which is exactly what the Celtics needed at that point in the game.
Williams’ greatest contribution was helping to slow down MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who had amassed 14 points during the first eight-plus minutes of the third frame. But after Williams checked in, Jokic never scored again.
“I was just trying to take him out as rhythm, as well as make it easier for the guys around me because we were getting beat on back cuts and a lot of stuff at that time,” said Williams, who forced Jokic to commit some costly fouls and turnovers down the stretch. “We had Rob (Williams) behind to protect me at the rim if he got too deep, and then [Rob] was able to contest shots and also get back to the shooters like Aaron Gordon or Michael Porter.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens appreciated Williams’ impact so much that he opted to keep the second-year forward in for the remainder of the game. And it paid off: in those final 15 minutes with Williams on the floor, the Celtics outscored Denver by a whopping 32 points.
Though, Williams wasn’t the only one to help turn things around. On the offensive end, both Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker were largely responsible for flipping the switch.
Brown scored 10 consecutive Celtics points near the end of the third quarter, while Walker capped off the frame with a strip-block which he took coast-to-coast for an and-one layup with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
“JB made a couple of plays I thought got us energized, Kemba made a play at the end of the quarter that was a big energy play, and it just kind of took off from there,” said Stevens. “We needed something to get us going, and we were close to going the other way there when it was 76-62. But we stayed the course.”
Staying the course throughout an entire comeback attempt is something that the Celtics have had trouble with for a significant portion of this season, as they have stormed back from multiple double-digit deficits this year only to come up short.
However, Sunday marked the third consecutive instance in which the Celtics completed a fourth-quarter comeback, after also winning in such a fashion against New York on Wednesday and versus Minnesota on Friday.
“All the good teams that I’ve been around can come back and win,” said Stevens, “so you come back in each of the last three games and win, down in the fourth quarter in all the games, that’s encouraging.”
It was also encouraging to see the C’s pick up their fifth win in their last six tries, especially in the first game of a road trip against the hottest team in the league.
“It's certainly going in the right direction,” Tatum said of his team’s recent rise. “We still have some things to improve on, but hopefully we can just continue to build off this.”