Celtics take over second half to snap Nuggets 8-game winning streak

Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts in the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. The Nuggets were looking good for the first three and a half quarters and led by as many as 14 points but the Celtics started a 38-8 run late in the third to snap the Nuggets 8-game winning streak. After a scoreless first quarter, Jayson Tatum took control and finished the night with 28 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Celtics to 3 straight wins after a 105-87 win in Denver. 

“We have to be better,” Michael Malone said. “They turned up the heat and got into us. They switched everything and we allowed that to kill our offensive flow. Really started complaining and whining, not getting back, not competing, give them credit a 31-8 in fourth.”

Jaylen Brown had himself a third quarter scoring 12 of his 20 points after also being scoreless to start. Tatum scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth helping Boston create a 60-36 second half. 

Denver started out strong and looked as though it had control early on. Michael Porter Jr. opened up the first quarter scoring 7 of the Nuggets 12 points after being scoreless against the Celtics back in February. He hit a three in transition and threw down two dunks. The Nuggets came out strong taking a quick 5-0 lead and later went on an 11-0 run for a 16-5 lead.

With five minutes left, the Nuggets shot 54 percent from the field while the Celtics struggled shooting at 25 percent. Denver kept attacking putting together three straight threes from Facundo Campazzo, PJ Dozier, and JaMychal Green to end the first with the 27-16 lead. 

Nikola Jokić went scoreless but had 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were also scoreless combining 0-8 from the field. Celtics as a whole shot 6-25 from the field and 1-9 from long range to end the first.

Second quarter, Dozier scored 4 straight points but the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 5. Tatum finally came to life scoring 11 points in the quarter and getting to the line 5 times. 

Denver continued hitting the gas and put together a 10-2 run with 3:40 left in the second. Campazzo, who started in place of Jamal Murray for the third straight game, was active on the offensive end. He hit a three and then rebounded a Jokić miss to find Aaron Gordon for a reverse dunk. Gordon finished the second with 7 points.

The Celtics went on a little run heading into halftime but the Nuggets still led 51-45. 

Opening the third, Jokić came to life scoring the Nuggets’ 6 straight points. He finished with 14 points and 5 assists in the third quarter but once Malone took him out of the game to give him a rest with 1:13 left to play, the Celtics capitalized putting together a 9-0 scoring run. The Nuggets were still up 79-74 at the end of three. 

The fourth quarter is when it all went downhill for the Nuggets. They completely lost control allowing the Celtics to build off of the run they had in the final minutes of the third. Boston scored 6 straight points to take the lead 80-79. 

The Nuggets collapsed only scoring 3 of their 23 field goal attempts and went 0-9 from three-point range. The Celtics outscored them 31-8 in the quarter and had 16 points in the paint to the Nuggets 6. The Celtics also out rebounded the Nuggets 18-8 in the quarter. 

Malone admitted that it has been tough figuring out the rotations having three big men that can all play at a high level and it has been exceptionally tough without Jamal Murray and Monté Morris being on a minutes restriction. 

“With Jamal Murray out that creates a change in your lineup,” Malone said. “Without him and Monté still on minute restrictions and you’re still trying to figure things out on the fly… We have three big guys (JaMychal Green, Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee) that are capable of helping us and playing. That’s probably the biggest area we still have to figure out moving forward.” 

It was an all around bad performance in the second half but Michael Porter Jr. s came into the post game press conference with a positive attitude because they know it’s just one game. 

“This is one of those games you put aside and move on from and focus on tomorrow,” Porter Jr. said. 

The Nuggets are already onto the next as they prepare to leave Denver Sunday night to head off to Golden State where they’ll face the Warriors tomorrow. After tomorrow, Denver would have played 6 games in the last 9 days.

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