Denver Nuggets 99, Boston Celtics 112: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets weren’t able to overcome their offensive struggles in Boston as they suffered a 112-99 defeat against the Celtics.

The loss comes despite two strong performances by their leading stars in Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray. Jokić missed just seven shots en route to a dominant 43 points in 38 minutes. Murray was also efficient, adding another 25 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Although the Nuggets’ stars combined for 68, the team overall struggled to overcome the absences of Monte Morris, Gary Harris, P.J. Dozier, and Paul Millsap due to injury and Will Barton III (personal reasons).

The Celtics snapped a two-game losing streak thanks to a strong night by Jaylen Brown, who had 27 points and five assists. Boston forced Denver into 17 turnovers, from which it scored 23 points.

"Obviously, we're a bit undermanned with all of the injuries right now, but the large majority of our guys played really hard," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. 

The Nuggets’ three-game win streak comes to a close and they’ll be looking to get back on track quickly when they travel to the nation’s capital to face the Wizards (4 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Help wanted

Jokić dropped the most first-half points by any visiting player at the Boston Garden since Allen Iverson in 2002, but the Nuggets still found themselves trying to come back for most of the contest. The team trailed by as many as 15 and was down five at the break despite a superhuman half by its all-world center.

"Every night, Nikola goes out there and literally puts his team on his back," Malone said. "We need guys to step up and help him." 

While Jamal Murray also had a strong scoring outing and Facundo Campazzo was solid in his first NBA start, adding another 15 points and eight assists, the Nuggets as a whole struggled to find any rhythm on offense. Michael Porter Jr. and JaMychal Green combined for two points on 1 of 15 shooting. And the team’s bench, which had been trending upward during the team’s three-game win streak, was outscored 30-14.

"We know he'll [Porter Jr.] will bounce back, he's too good of a shooter not to," Malone said.

Turnovers were a significant part of the Nuggets’ struggles in New England. The team had 11 turnovers in the first half, it averages 13.7 on the season (10th). Jokić, for his part, was appreciative of the efforts guys were making in place of several injured rotation players. 

"The fight was there, that's what I like," Jokić said. "Everyone who played today, they put a fight in it. We lost the game, but we [had] young guys step up." 

Dynamic Duo steps up

While the Nuggets won’t be happy with their overall result, they have to be encouraged by the continued uptick by Murray.

After struggling two weeks ago, the 23-year-old has battled through various ailments to play some of his best basketball of the season over the last three outings. Murray is averaging 24 points in that span.

As for Jokić, what else can be said? He continues to showcase on a night-to-night basis why he is among the frontrunners for MVP. Here’s an interesting stat: The center is currently seventh in the NBA in first-half scoring. He is currently averaging 13.4 points in the opening 24 minutes of games. That’s above NBA stars such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Trae Young, and Kevin Durant.

FACU solid in first start

With Monte Morris joining the Nuggets’ slew of injuries with a shoulder injury, Campazzo got a rare opportunity to start in Boston. Although he got off to a slow start with five points and two assists, he would make up for it with a strong second half.

"He's a warrior and he loves being out there," Malone said after the game. "I thought Facu was tremendous for us tonight." 

The Argentine put up 10 points, six assists, two steals, and just one turnover as the Nuggets tried to rally back into the game. With the team having a quick turnaround with a back-to-back, there is a possibility he could make another start for Michael Malone’s team. The final 24 minutes of the game against Boston is definitely something he can build on.

"I'm feeling comfortable, I'm filled with confidence," Campazzo said after the game. "I want to adapt as soon as possible and I keep adapting to this league." 

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