DENVER, CO - JANUARY 29: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets goes to the basket against the Boston Celtics on January 29, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Furious Nuggets Rally Falls Just Short in One-Point Loss to Celtics

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

If you want to beat the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s best defensive team, at some point you’re going to have to fight force with force. It took about a half for the Nuggets to raise their physical game, but when they did, it made all the difference.

They rallied from a 20-point deficit. Yet, they could not get the bucket they needed to see a win through.

Will Barton’s last-second heave fell short, and a tip-in by Torrey Craig came after the buzzer, sealing the Nuggets’ 111-110 loss to the Celtics on Monday night at the Pepsi Center. The loss snapped a Nuggets three-game win streak.

“I thought overall, obviously it’s a loss and we feel bad about the loss, there are no moral victories,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But against the best team in the Eastern Conference, we gave ourselves a chance to win. And that’s all you could ever ask for. I’m proud of our guys for that fight.”

The Nuggets used an energized second half to power themselves back into the game. After struggling to score 45 points in the first half, the Nuggets broke out for 37 points in the third quarter alone. Nikola Jokić (11 points in the third) and Mason Plumlee (10 points in the third), set a physical tone that their teammates followed.

It resulted in the Nuggets out-scoring the Celtics 24-12 to start the third. When Jamal Murray hit a pull-up jump shot with 4:11 left the period, the Nuggets had a one-point lead. They ended the third up by two.

The fourth quarter was a slugfest.

Both teams traded big shots and big stops. The Nuggets got several down the stretch, and they needed them. They had fallen behind 108-102 with 2:12 to play, but scored six straight points to tie the game at 108. The Celtics then got a Jaylen Brown 3-pointer with 34.7 seconds left, which proved to be the game-winning points.

“Love the effort, loved the fight and the fact that we got back into the game,” Malone said. “It was a great crowd…hopefully they enjoyed the game and saw a team that fought for them.”

Nuggets starters scored 88 of the 110 points. Lyles scored 20 of the Nuggets’ 22 bench points. Jokić finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Barton had 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

Mason Plumlee added 16 points and eight rebounds, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a right calf strain. He had to be helped off the court and was wheeled back to the locker room.

“I’m hopeful that we avoided anything really sinister, in terms of a really bad injury,” Malone said.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter