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.