The Denver Nuggets came into Friday’s game fresh off of their best performance of the season in which they beat the Houston Rockets 105-95.
Against the Rockets, the Nuggets had one of their best defensive games thus far as they gave former Most Valuable Players James Harden and Russell Westbrook all that they could handle. They looked to take that defense into Friday’s game against the visiting Boston Celtics who have surprised many. Boston and Denver put together an incredible defensive battle being that both teams are in the top-seven in defensive rating.
In the end, it was Denver who pulled away for a 96-92 win despite a strong late-game push from the Celtics. With the win, Denver has now won four-straight games and with that, I give you the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Nuggets continue winning with defense
In a battle of game between two teams that do not score a ton of points but have incredible defenses, there were plenty of stops on both ends of the floor.
Denver did not allow the Celtics to get out on any major runs and forced them to take difficult shots because of their stellar defense which suffocated the Celtics from the opening tip. Denver is a team that wants to slow it down and have the opposing team fight for every single possession and Boston had to do that on Friday evening.
At the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets led by 14 points and put on a defensive clinic. The Nuggets held Boston to 23% shooting from the field in the opening frame as the Celtics went 1-7 from beyond the arc. Denver ran their man off of the three-point line, kept Boston off of the boards, and out of the paint, which allowed the Nuggets to get back on defense and not allow any fastbreak opportunities.
Denver pushed that momentum into the second quarter as the proceeded to only allow the Celtics to score 21 points in the frame. At the halftime intermission, the Nuggets led 45-34 with some eye-popping defensive stats. Denver limited Boston to 27% from the field and only allowed 18% from the 3-point line.
From that point forward, the Nuggets defense had some moments of imperfection, but they were still as stout as ever. Boston was only able to muster 92 points and shot an abysmal 40.7% from the field which led Denver to their eighth game of the 2019-20 season.
Denver’s win over Houston represented their eighth game holding their opposition under 100 points. In those games, Denver is 8-0.
Bad – Too close for comfort
Friday night’s game looked as if it was going to be a blow-out victory for Denver as the Nuggets led by as many as 19 points, but as they have many times this year, they let that lead disappear.
Denver led 70-57 going into the fourth quarter and had the chance to put Boston away, but that is when the Celtics made their move.
Boston had their best quarter of the night and got within two points of Denver as they made their final push. As Boston inched closer to taking the lead, Celtics fans grew louder and louder until a loud ‘let’s go Celtics’ screamed throughout the Pepsi Center.
Boston got out in transition, forced a few turnovers, and the Celtics scored 35 points in the fourth quarter alone which called for some late-game heroics from the Nuggets to hold onto their lead.
Denver survived thanks to big shots from both Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap which helped them move to 11-3 on the season, but if the fourth quarter is any indication of how the season will go then the Nuggets will once again have their work cut out for them.
Denver was one of the best teams in the league last season in games decided by five points or less and have continued that trend this season. They remain one of the best clutch teams in the league and this year they continue to edge out opponents in tight games.
While it is great for a young team to show off their resiliency, the Nuggets also have to show that they can put a team away as well.
Ugly – Kemba Walker goes down
As great was the battle was between Denver and Boston, there was a very scary moment in the game.
With 3:13 left before the half, Kemba Walker stumbled and collided head-first into his Boston teammate Semi Ojeleye causing a neck injury to Walker.
Walker went to the ground and did not move for over five minutes as fans, coaches, and teammates held their breath. The medical staff brought a stretcher on the floor and his teammates huddled around their All-Star point guard as he remained motionless.
After a few moments, Walker was taken to the back of the arena for initial testing before heading to a hospital.
Boston fought back to make it a close game, but fell short as they needed their franchise player to overcome the Nuggets.
During the second half, good news finally came as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Walker did not suffer a significant injury.
It is great to hear that things are looking positive for Walker after a terrifying moment and hopefully he is back to playing the game that he loves in no time.