BOSTON -- So much of the focus leading up to game Monday night centered around Isaiah Thomas’ return to the TD Garden.

But to the credit of Celtics and Nuggets, they did not allow the potential circus-like atmosphere Thomas’ return could have created, to be a factor.

It came down to which team played better, and on this night it was the Nuggets, who spent most of the game playing ahead before leaving the TD Garden with a 114-105 win.

One of the keys to Denver getting the victory was how successful they were getting out in transition, resulting in an 18-7 advantage in fast-break points.

The victory moves the Nuggets (47-22) within a half-game of Western Conference-leading Golden State (47-21).

For the Celtics (43-28), the loss will keep them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the nine-point loss.

Nikola Jokic: The Joker had it going all game long, doing what he does better than any center in the NBA — impact the game in all phases of play. Jokic tallied a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds along with dishing out seven assists.

Kyrie Irving: Once again, Boston’s best source of offense was Irving, who led the Celtics with 30 points on 10-for-23 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists.

Al Horford: He did a decent job of matching Jokic’s offensive output most of the game. Horford tallied 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with six rebounds and six assists.


Will Barton: This was one of those sneaky-good games for Barton, who had 20 points on 9-for-17 shooting.

Paul Millsap: The Nuggets got solid contributions from Paul Millsap in several areas as he tallied a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas: I don’t care if he was scoreless in just seven minutes and missed both of his shots from the field but still tallied two assists, the ovation he received was a reminder of just how great a player he was in his two-plus seasons in Boston.

Jamal Murray: After torching the Celtics for a career-high 48 points when the two teams met earlier this season, the Celtics did a much better job of containing him on Monday. Murray scored 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting.

Jayson Tatum: When Kyrie Irving went to the bench for a rest, that was Jayson Tatum’s time to shine. Instead, he remained a non-factor. He would finish with eight points along with seven rebounds and six assists, but in terms of his impact... it just wasn’t there.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.