Celtics hold on in final moments to edge out Nuggets, 111-110

Celtics hold on in final moments to edge out Nuggets, 111-110

Oh. So. Close.

The Boston Celtics squeaked out a 111-110 win over the Denver Nuggets, as Will Barton’s desperation heave was short of the rim only to be grabbed in mid-air by a Nuggets play who put it in after the game clock expired. 

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It was yet another one of those games when the Celtics had their share of not-so-great stretches of play, only to make the plays needed to escape with a win. 

Boston (36-15) closes out its four-game West coast trip with a 2-2 split.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 27 points. Jayson Tatum had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. Off the bench, Boston got a nice lift from Marcus Morris had 14 points with Terry Rozier tallying a near double-double with eight points and nine rebounds to go with six assists. 

Al Horford had a good look in the lane with just a few seconds to play, sucking in the Denver defense. Rather than take the shot, he kicked it out to Jaylen Brown whose three-pointer went below the rim, than out, then back down again to give Boston a 3-point lead and proved to be the game-winning points.

It was a play that served as a reminder of the trust that the Celtics players have in one another.

The fourth quarter did not get off to the best of starts for the Celtics as they soon found themselves down 88-82 following a 3-pointer by Trey Lyles. 

But the Celtics began exchanging basket-for-basket with the Nuggets, with an occasional defensive stop thrown in that would prove to be just what the Celtics needed. 

The Celtics regained the lead on an Irving driving lay-up that put Boston back on top 92-91.

Boston began to expand its lead, but the Nuggets managed to stay within striking distance. 

A pair of free throws by Denver’s Nikola Jokovic made it a one-point game, only for Jayson Tatum to continue what was a strong night with an uncontested dunk to increase Boston’s lead to 103-100. He finished with a double-double of 24 points, 11 rebounds along with five assists. Will Barton chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists with Trey Lyles providing 20 points and seven rebounds off the Nuggets bench. 

Denver continued to chip away at Boston’s lead, and had the ball down 108-106 with 59 seconds to play after an improbable bank shot by Irving did not count because he released it just half-second after the shot clock expired.

The Nuggets made the most of their opportunity with Jamal Murray scoring with 43 seconds to play to tie the game at 108-all.

After a Celtics time-out was called, Jaylen Brown drained a corner 3-pointer to put Boston ahead with 33 seconds to play. 

The down-to-the-wire ending was in stark contrast to how the game played out in the first two quarters of play. 

After a solid first half in which the Celtics led by as many as 20 points, the Nuggets came storming back to start the third quarter, trimming Boston’s lead to 66-60 following a Plumlee dunk leading to a Boston time-out with 7:10 to play in the quarter. 

The Nuggets continued to surge back into the game, making it a one-possession game following a Will Barton lay-up. 

Denver continued to surge back into the game and took a slim 82-80 lead going into the fourth quarter.


Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

WALTHAM, Mass. – The road to getting back atop the Eastern Conference standings for the Boston Celtics following the All-Star break will begin – where else? – on the road.

And that’s a good thing.

Boston, which plays its first two games after the break on the road beginning at Detroit tonight and New York on Saturday, has been among the league’s best all season when it comes to winning on the road.


Only two teams, Golden State (22-7, .759 winning percentage) and Houston (21-7, .750 winning percentage), have a better road winning percentage than the Celtics (19-8, .703 winning percentage) this season.

“Our schedule is really hard as we hit this last home stretch 23 games,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And that’s a good thing with us. We are going to have to have that urgency.”

Boston (40-19) has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Aware of how quickly a couple of losses can snowball into a full-blown losing skid, Boston players understand the importance of playing with a greater sense of urgency.

“I think we have a sense of urgency about ourselves,” Brown said. “I think we understand the second half of the season and the importance of it, getting ready for playoffs. And how you can see some of the older guys, Kyrie (Irving), Al (Horford), the attention to detail, the stress about the little things is becoming more evident.” 

Said Irving: “We hit a little bit of a stretch where we haven’t been playing our type of basketball. Not necessarily being as consistent as we’d like to be. We just want to get back to being consistent and doing the right things.”

Stevens added, “Hopefully these little hiccups that we have had prior to the break, which more pertains to who we are playing … hopefully benefit us down the road.”


Al Horford said more than anything, the Celtics have to ratchet up their attention to details in all phases of play.

“The focus is really now more than any point in the season taking it day-to-day,” Horford said. “And I felt like we got better, today was a good practice. This is a good start, so now for us it’s just to keep building that and just take it game-to-game because these are … the rehearsal games, if you want to call them that. That’s what I like to call it with this group. So, getting everything straightened out for when the playoffs come around.”


CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely start off this week's episode talking about the return of Marcus Smart following the All-Star break, and how much the team missed him in their recent skid. Will head coach Brad Stevens make a lineup change, and with more practice time under his belt, will Greg Monroe see his minutes increase?

(9:50) Sherrod talks about his article on NBCSportsBoston.com this week on Kyrie Irving needing to have a 'special' finish to his first season with the Celtics.

(14:15) Would the rumored changes to the NBA Playoff format would be good or bad?

(16:45) Kyle and Sherrod (plus producer Jason Levine joining the fray) have a great debate on the latest tidbit of trade rumblings surrounding New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. Is the door finally open for the Celtics to swoop in?

(30:40) The guys also talk about the latest news with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs....could he become available this offseason?

(33:10) Finally, Kyle sits down with Brad Stevens to talk about his trip to Red Sox Spring Training during the break, plus the terrible end to his own baseball career.