Celtics Spring Past Nuggets, Close in on Second Seed

After hammering the Denver Nuggets Sunday night with a 124-104 win inside Ball Arena, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown tweeted one of his favorite metaphors: “Winter always turns to spring.”

Not only did the statement apply in a literal sense, being that Sunday marked the first day of spring, but it also applies to the Celtics in a figurative manner for getting through the darkest days of winter when they were hovering around .500 before emerging into the spring sunshine as one of the NBA’s elite teams.

Since Jan. 7, Boston has jumped from 11th place in the East with an 18-21 record all the way up to half a game out of second at 44-28.

With a 26-7 record during that span, the Celtics have been the best team in their conference, and the craziest part about their turnaround is that it doesn’t seem like they’ve even peaked; they just keep getting better with each game.

Sunday’s win over the Nuggets marked their third straight road win of at least 20 points. Two nights prior, they beat the Sacramento Kings by 29. And two nights before that, they beat the Golden State Warriors by 22.

If it beats Oklahoma City Monday night, Boston would pull off a perfect, 4-0 Western Conference trip; quite the opposite of their first major trip out West in December when it went 1-4.

However, winter has turned into spring for these Celtics, as they’ve left the green and white of old back in the cold.

“I think just going through the experience like, we had a new team, a new front office, new coaching staff, things were different, so we were trying to figure it out,” said Brown, who tied Jayson Tatum for the game-high in points Sunday night with 30. “And while we were figuring it out, it was a lot of x, y and z. But now we made adjustments, we watched film, we've had time to take some L’s that we felt like we shouldn't have lost, that hurt. And you learn from those experiences. And now we’re kind of just flowing and it's a little bit more seamless than it was earlier in the season.”

For a team that was wildly inconsistent at the start of the season, Boston has now turned into one of the steadiest forces in the league.

Its defense has been unstoppable now for about two months, posting by far the best defensive rating in the league since the end of January. The C’s held true to their form in Denver, limiting the Nuggets to 43 points in the first half while also holding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to an 8-of-23 shooting effort for the game.

“I think getting off to these really good starts defensively, teams know what we’re about now and the numbers show that,” said C’s head coach Ime Udoka. “Our thing is to come out and prove that. So that’s the message each and every night against different opponents.”

There’s been an extreme level of satisfaction in watching Boston adapt over the course of the season, but the players aren't satisfied just yet.

“It feels nice, but I’ll keep saying, just taking one game at a time,” said Brown. “Our goal is to continue to get better in the things that we need to get better at, it’s about us not about the other team, and tonight we wanted to come out and prove that and show that. And we just gotta take it one game at a time, stay healthy, and then the sky is the limit. Beyond the sky, to be honest.”

The sky is looking much bluer for the Celtics of late, as they’ve left the grey skies of winter behind them.

As Brown metaphorically stated, “When things are not always going well, sometimes you just have hope that winter always does turn to spring.”

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