Denver Nuggets 95, Boston Celtics 108: Three takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Denver Nuggets barely resembled the team that dismantled the New York Knicks the night before. In a 108-95 loss to the Boston Celtics, Denver struggled mightily on the offensive end, especially from beyond the arc. As a result, Boston maintained a lead throughout the entire game and secured a comfortable home victory.

"We were kind of loose (on defense), we were not up on the screens and were retreating all the time," Nikola Jokić said. "It seemed like it was too easy for them."

The Celtics used some hot shooting from deep to race out to a 14-6 lead after the first four minutes of the game. Boston knocked down four 3-pointers in that stretch. Jokić fueled a 12-8 run for Denver in response, as he dropped 10 points in his first eight minutes of action. Boston closed the first quarter on an 11-8 run to take a 33-26 lead into the second frame. Six offensive rebounds and 18 points in the paint helped Denver stay in the game despite 1 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc in the quarter.

A quick 8-0 scoring run from Jayson Tatum gave Boston a 41-26 lead within the first two minutes of the second quarter. After their starters checked back into the game midway through the frame, the Nuggets started to slowly chip away at the lead. Denver closed the half on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit down to 53-45 at the half.

Despite their best efforts in the opening minutes of the second half, the Nuggets continued to trail by double-digits midway through the quarter. Each time the Nuggets seemed to gain momentum, Boston had a response on the offensive end of the floor, which preserved the lead. After the Nuggets stayed within striking range throughout the majority of the quarter, the Celtics erupted for an 11-0 run in the final two minutes of the quarter, which pushed their lead to 85-64 heading into the final quarter.

In what became their final comeback attempt, the Nuggets weren’t able to gain any ground on Boston in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Tatum continued to lead the Celtics offense, which had an answer for nearly every basket Denver scored. A 9-2 run by Denver in the middle stages of the quarter briefly provided a spark for the Nuggets, but Boston quickly put the game to bed with back-to-back 3-pointers that extended the lead back to 18 points. Afterwards, both teams put in reserve units to close the game.

Here are three takeaways from Denver’s loss:

Cold 3-point shooting buried Denver

Just 24 hours removed from their hot shooting night against the Knicks, the Nuggets couldn’t buy a bucket from beyond the arc against the Celtics. Denver connected on 21 triples against New York but finished 5 of 30 from three against Boston on Friday. As a result, Boston’s defense was able to focus in on guarding inside the arc, which limited Denver’s offense.

"Obviously, they made threes and we did not," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We spent all of our threes in New York City last night, unfortunately."

Offense sputtered around Jokić

It wasn’t just cold 3-point shooting that doomed Denver’s chances on Friday. While Jokić had his best scoring game in over two weeks with 30 points on 13 of 21 shooting from the field, his supporting cast wasn’t able to generate enough offense to keep the Nuggets in the game.

"Obviously Nikola played great," Malone said. "He scored from everywhere, which was great to see. Tonight he was thinking score first and score second, then if they brought help he would make the right pass."

Denver was 26-73 (35.6 percent) from the field as a team after removing Jokić’s performance. Furthermore, Denver posted only 18 assists to 12 turnovers, which is uncharacteristic for the Nuggets’ offense. Despite the game in Boston on Friday marking the 20-game mark for the Nuggets, they continue to search for flow on the offensive end.

Boston’s young wins sunk the Nuggets

It wasn’t an all-around bad night for the Nuggets’ defense on Friday, as they did force 15 turnovers from Boston and kept the Celtics off the offensive glass (just four offensive rebounds). However, the Celtics got plenty of contributions from Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Friday, as the duo combined for 47 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in Boston’s win.

"Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had great nights, and we obviously didn't do a good enough job guarding them," Malone added. "Those guys are both talented players. They can beat you in the post, hit the 3-point shot and have the ability to break you down on the dribble."

While Kemba Walker gets plenty of attention, Boston’s forwards attacked the Nuggets from all angles on Friday and fueled the majority of Boston’s offense.

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