BOSTON – Brad Stevens used well-thought out, measured tones when describing what he feared might happen to the Boston Celtics based on the film study he and his staff did leading up to their matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
“The nicest way I can say this is, ‘I think we play like a finesse team, and they play physical,’” Stevens said. “So I kind of saw that right out the gate.”
Sometimes it sucks to be right.
As we’ve seen time and time again in the NBA, physicality usually trumps finesse.
NUGGETS 123, CELTICS 107:
- Isaiah Thomas: "At this point we're all talk" on defense
- Celtics can't fight back after rough first half, lose to Nuggets, 123-107
- Stevens: Good defense starts with holding your ground physically
That was exactly what happened on Sunday as the Nuggets made the Celtics look sundae-soft with a 123-107 thumping in a game that wasn’t nearly as close for most of the night as the final score might have indicated.
“When we don’t come out with a sense of urgency, we’re not a good team,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “And that’s what happened tonight.”
After being told about Stevens’ comment about them being a finesse team, Thomas agreed.
“The physical thing is an attitude,” Thomas said. “Not backing down, not thinking we’re the best team in the NBA. It’s a mindset thing. We’ve shown we can be a physical team. We’ve shown we can play at a high level on the defensive end, but we’re not showing it this season. We’ll have a bad season if we don’t show it soon.”
Bradley also agreed with Stevens’ assessment of the team being a finesse bunch right now.
However, the Celtics showed some defensive fight to start the third quarter when they opened with six straight points, all of which were fueled by gritty play defensively.
“We have to be like that the entire game,” Bradley said. “That’s what it is.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday night’s game.
He only had four points in the second, third and fourth quarters combined, but his 24-point explosion in the first put the Celtics on their heels for the rest of the night. He would finish with 30 points and eight rebounds in leading the Nuggets. “I was trying to be as aggressive as I can be,” Mudiay said.
This was one of the few games this season when Thomas didn’t get any significant scoring help. He would lead the Celtics with 30 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field to go along with five assists.
Where Mudiay left off scoring, Chandler was there to keep it going for the Nuggets. He came off the bench and finished with 22 points and five rebounds.
It was yet another double-double for Bradley (his third this season), finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds along with a team-high six assists.
Easily their worst defensive performance of the season, the Nuggets had their way all game in terms of scoring the ball and getting whatever shot they wanted. It will be interesting to see how the Celtics respond to his drubbing at home as they gear up to play three of their next four games on the road beginning at Washington on Wednesday.