Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON -- With the shot clock winding down in the first half courtesy of some stout defense by the Denver Nuggets, Jayson Tatum’s tossed up a desperation 3-pointer and it went down. 

A couple minutes later, Kemba Walker was being hounded by some strong Nuggets defense and his shot also swished through the net, just beating the shot clock horn sounding off. 

It was that kind of night for the Boston Celtics who pulled away in the second half for a surprisingly cushy 108-95 win. 

Only Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Lakers have a better record in the NBA than the Celtics (15-6) who improved their record at home to 9-0. 

It was as complete a game as we've seen from the Celtics who led wire-to-wire against a Denver team that came in with the second-best record in the always-rugged Western Conference.

TEAM DEFENSE

There were bodies flying all over the floor on close-outs, rebounds grabbed in traffic and multiple shot-clock violations being forced by Boston’s defense. 

For most of the game, the Celtics collectively delivered the kind of defensive performance that they absolutely had to have against a Denver squad that’s among the best in the NBA. 

Boston was especially effective defending the 3-point shot as they forced the Nuggets into missing 14 of their 15 attempts in the first half. For the game, Denver was 5-for-30 (16.7 percent) on 3’s. 

Of course Boston’s game plan defensively worked, but the biggest factor in that success was the effort level. 

Most of this season there has been an ebb and flow feel about Boston’s defense and its overall impact. 

But on Friday the defensive effort level never waned which will be the key to the defensive performance we saw against the Nuggets being more of the standard and not the exception to the rule when it comes to their play at that end of the floor. 

TATUM-BROWN TANDEM

We tend to think of them as individuals which they are, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to get better at playing at a high level off one another. 

In the first quarter, it was Brown who carried much of the scoring load for Boston. The second quarter saw Tatum in take-over mode. 

At the half, Brown had 13 points while Tatum had 12. For the game, Tatum had a team-high 26 points while Brown finished with 21 points. 

Their ability to hit teams with one scoring wave after another provides Boston with the kind of offensive firepower that adds another layer of difficulty to opponents trying to limit a 1-2 punch offensively that’s only going to get better with time. 

ENES KANTER

The minutes were not in abundant supply for Enes Kanter - only 18 if you’re keeping score at home. But what we’ve seen from Kanter lately is that regardless of how long or short his stints are, he’s making his presence felt when he checks into the game. 

He had eight points against the Nuggets, shooting 3-for-4 from the field as well as making both of his free throws. His points came at a time when the Celtics were trying to assert control of the game and Kanter’s role as an around-the-basket scorer was instrumental in that coming to pass. 

More than anything, Kanter’s limited playing time puts his words about caring only about winning, to the test. 

Because even though he’s not playing major minutes, he has a major role on this team, a role he executed to near-perfection against the Nuggets.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.