Celtics

Nuggets' Jamal Murray buries Celtics with career-high 48 points

Nuggets' Jamal Murray buries Celtics with career-high 48 points

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 115-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets which extended their losing streak to two in a row.

STARS

Jamal Murray: The third-year guard got off to a fast start with 14 first-quarter points and continued to provide timely shot-making for the Nuggets in their comeback. He finished with a career-high 48 points on 19-for-30 shooting from the field.

Kyrie Irving: For most of the night, Kyrie Irving was in mix-tape, ankle-break, Uncle Drew mode with a flurry of highlight-worthy moves ending with lots of points. Irving led all scorers with 31 points coming on 13-for-17 shooting from the field to go with five assists.

STUDS

Nikola Jokic: The Joker was doing what he does most nights – contributing in all the major categories. Murray’s scoring was indeed the dominant factor in the game, but that still didn’t keep Jokic from flirting with a triple-double by finishing with eight points, eight assists and 10 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: Brown was active at both ends of the floor for Boston before finishing with 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field.

Marcus Smart: He was being a defensive pest as always, but also did a solid job of making the most of his shot attempts. He had nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from the field along with a career-high four blocked shots.

DUDS

BWA: The usually reliable Celtics’ second unit – Bench With Attitude – was a non-factor for most of the game. They collectively finished with just 17 points on 10-for-26 shooting. Every reserve Brad Stevens used finished with a negative plus/minus except for rookie Robert Williams III (+1).

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Jaylen Brown's aggressive play sparks Celtics' dominant win over Bulls

Jaylen Brown's aggressive play sparks Celtics' dominant win over Bulls

BOSTON – Too many times this season, Jaylen Brown has been more than open to the idea of letting the game come to him.

Not on this night.

Brown played with a level of aggression offensively that we have seen few and far between from him this season, the kind that allowed him to finish at the rim consistently and in doing so, allowed the Boston Celtics to finish off the Bulls in no time to the tune of a 111-82 whipping.

Brown led the Celtics (8-6) with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists.

It was the kind of performance Brown needed to deliver, as well as the kind that Boston was thirsting for after a string of lackluster performances that raised a ton of questions about this team that a squad pegged to be among the last teams standing in the East, should not have to deal with. 

 “I think the biggest thing is, for our whole team, Jaylen can get to the rim at any time,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And I think the biggest thing is just continuing to not only finish with strength but also just continuing to make the right reads. And I think he’s improved in that.”

Brown acknowledged after the game that, after film study in preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Bulls, he came in wanting to make a conscious effort to get to the rim more than he had in previous games.

It worked.

And Chicago’s porous defense helped make Brown’s plan, a lot easier to execute.

“Just trying to be aggressive on both ends,” Brown said.

Having the right mindset was also key for Brown's big game. 

“It’s not my style to point fingers and things like that,” he said. “I have to play better. I just got to come out and play with the right mindset.”

Because of his 6-7 frame and strength on the wing, he has the ability to get into the lane and absorb contact.

That was not needed on Wednesday because more often than not, Brown was able to get into the paint and finish at the rim without a single Chicago body touching him.

You hear a lot of talk about how Brown’s defense and shot-making have to be at a relatively high level for Boston and Brown to be successful this season.

A year ago, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game in addition to drawing the toughest perimeter defensive assignment most nights.

But more than just the numbers, his true value lies in his ability to stay on the attack at both ends of the floor.

“When he plays like that,” said Boston’s Al Horford, “we look so much better.”

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Blowout win over Bulls has Celtics cautiously optimistic about future success

Blowout win over Bulls has Celtics cautiously optimistic about future success

BOSTON – The mood inside the Boston Celtics locker room was very business-like after they absolutely gave the Chicago Bulls a 111-82 beating.

Boston (8-6) is considered an NBA power this season while the Bulls (4-11) are just bad.

This is how it’s supposed to go, right?

While pleased with the victory, Celtics players have a cautiously optimistic outlook going forward.

“It’s much needed,” Marcus Smart told NBC Sports Boston following Wednesday’s blowout win. “But it’s only one game. We got tough tests coming up Friday (against Toronto) and Saturday (against Utah). That’s going to be the real tests, to see how we do. But this was a good start.”

Having lost four of their last five games - all on the road - has left Boston few positive takeaways from the trip. 

Among them?

A renewed humility as well as a better understanding of what they thought was a good effort, just isn’t good enough when you are the hunted and no longer a hunter.

“As a team, it’s our second year together. For most of us guys, we’ve never been in this position,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “So, we went from, ‘I feel like going after people (to)' ...  people are coming after us; just making that adjustment. We’re learning that right now.”

 And it is a lesson that brought about a performance on Wednesday that ranks among the team’s best this season.

Yes, it came against a Bulls team that on so many levels, stinks.

But the fact that the Celtics took control of the game in the first half and never relented for the rest of the night, speaks to how – at least for one night – they played the right way and the result was exactly what a team picked to be among the last teams standing at the end of the season, should expect.

It was the kind of performance that frankly, many expected to see more often from the Celtics this season.

“Coming into the season, we were all expecting that we were just gonna take over, and we’re very dangerous,” Horford said with a grin. “I feel we’ve been humbled a little bit. We’re in a position now we have an opportunity to start building that. We have to do it every night. If we do that we have a chance to be special.”

There’s no getting around how Wednesday’s victory was indeed a feel-good win.

But this team has been through enough ups and downs this season to know that going forward, there has been a high level of cautious optimism, the kind that comes about with a renewed humility and better understanding of what it means to be the team everyone’s aiming to take down.

“We have to get back to playing hard,” Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. “We needed that. We just have to keep it going.”

And as far as the upcoming schedule, Rozier added, “we’re trying to get back to playing good basketball so this is the best way to test us.”

Indeed, the significance of this week is not lost on Boston's Jaylen Brown. 

 “We got a big week coming up, this weekend two back-to-back games, two teams that we lost to previously," Brown said. "We got to do what we got to do to get a win.”

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE