Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, Jaylen Brown hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining and the struggling Boston Celtics edged the Denver Nuggets 111-110 on Monday night.
Denver had a chance to win in dramatic fashion at the end but Torrey Craig‘s tip-in of Will Barton‘s long attempt from 3-point range was too late.
Irving finished 11 of 17 from the field to lead the Celtics to just their second win in seven games. Jayson Tatum added 20 points and Marcus Morris had 14 off the bench.
Boston blew a 20-point lead and trailed heading into the final period. Then the Celtics couldn’t hold onto a six-point advantage in the final two minutes as the Nuggets tied the game at 108 with 43 seconds to go.
Nikola Jokic had a double-double by the first minute of the second half for Denver, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Barton scored 19, Gary Harris 15 and Jamal Murray 14.
Mason Plumlee had 16 points and eight rebounds before he left with a leg injury in the fourth.
The Celtics beat Denver for the second time this season, also prevailing 124-118 on Dec. 13.
Boston made 10 of its first 16 shots from beyond the perimeter to go up 51-31 in the second quarter and led 56-45 at halftime. Irving led the way with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
The Nuggets climbed back on the strength of a 14-5 run to end the half and outscored Boston 37-24 in the third to go up 82-80.
Celtics’ Jaylen Brown throws putback dunk down straight on Pau Gasol (VIDEO)
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while trying to avoid getting a DUI on horseback.
1) Kyrie Irving doesn’t like his mask, still scores 23 and leads Celtics to 13th straight win. Celtics fans were already looking ahead to Thursday, but first Boston traveled to Brooklyn Tuesday night… although you would never know it listening to the Celtics-heavy crowd at this game. It sounded like a game at the Garden.
Celtics fans are everywhere right now and they should be proud — their team has won 13 in a row after dropping the Nets 109-102. The win was a combination of their defense once again holding the opponent down — the Nets did well shooting 40 percent from three on 35 attempts, but they didn’t get a lot of shots at the rim, and from three feet to the arc they shot 8-of-29 — and getting enough offense when they needed it.
Kyrie Irving spent the night uncomfortably touching and adjusting his mask — he’ll be wearing it for a couple of weeks due to a facial fracture… at least he’s supposed to — but found his way to 23 points. The real offensive star for the Celts was Marcus Morris, who led a 10-0 fourth quarter run and finished the night with 21 points on 12 shots. Brooklyn hung around because they are a scrappy bunch, but it was not enough on a night when Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 32 points.
This sets up the measuring stick game for the Celtics: Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors. The defending champs, and the overwhelming favorites to party with Larry O’Brien again, come to the Garden. It will be the best offense in the NBA against the best defense. The Warriors have won six in a row all by double digits, they come in on a roll of their own, and it is a chance for Boston to take a measure of itself against the best.
2) James Harden: Amazing Eurostep move or travel? You decide.
The NBA rule is you get two steps after you gather the ball, so if that first step is Harden’s gather this is legal. However, if he has control as he takes that first step it’s a travel.
In practice, no call so it’s a Eurostep and a bucket.
3) Harden couldn’t Eurostep the Rockets to a win, Raptors beat them 129-113. The Rockets have been a solid, middle-of-the-pack defensive team this season — which with their offense is plenty — but they got shredded by the Raptors on Tuesday night. As a team, the Raptors had a true shooting percentage of 66.2, which will get them a win every night.
DeMar DeRozan was attacking, doing a good job being a playmaker too (especially in the first quarter) and finished with 27 points on 16 shots for the night. Kyle Lowry and C.J. Miles each added 19.
However, the real star was rookie OG Anunoby, who was thrust into the starting lineup with Norman Powell out (hip), and he shot 6-of-8 while spending much of the night guarding Harden and doing a respectable job, his energy created great defensive pressure, and he passed and shot with confidence. It may be hard for coach Dwane Casey to keep him out of the starting lineup.
Even without Kyrie Irving, Celtics hold off Hornets 90-87
BOSTON (AP) — Another game, another injury, another win for the Boston Celtics.
Jayson Tatum had 16 points, Shane Larkin added 16 off the bench and the Celtics overcame an injury to Kyrie Irving and a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 90-87 on Friday night.
Terry Rozier finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, playing an increased role after Irving left the game in the first quarter after taking an elbow to the face. Jaylen Brown added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Celtics extended their win streak to 11 games. Charlotte has lost four straight.
“We just got a lot of fighters, a lot of resilient guys,” Larkin said of a team that’s now seen Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and now Irving beset by injuries.
He said his teammates’ misfortunes have underlined the necessity of staying ready.
“I’m always locked it. That’s my job. I don’t know when my opportunity’s gonna be there,” Larkin said. “Tonight I hit some shots early, coach kept rocking with me, so I tried to throw my best.”
Celtics center Aron Baynes‘ elbow inadvertently struck Irving when Baynes was landing after a rebound attempt. Irving fell to the floor and was bleeding from the nose as he was escorted back to the locker room. Irving was ruled out for the rest of the game while he was monitored for possible concussion symptoms.
Larkin said Irving spoke to the team at halftime and texted them all congratulations on the win.
Celtics trailed by 12 after three quarters, but opened the fourth on a 16-3 run and took the lead with 4:05 to play on a basket by Brown.
The lead grew to five before Walker’s three-point play got the Hornets back within 86-85. Marcus Morris connected on a jumper, but Walker responded with a driving layup to get it back to a point.
Boston called timeout, but Rozier accidently stepped out of bounds on the ensuing inbounds play. Walker dribbled the clock down, but his jumper bounced off the back of the rim and was rebounded by Rozier. He was fouled and sank two free throws with 3.6 seconds left.
Charlotte struggled throughout the final period, going 4 of 20 from the field and committing six turnovers.
“We’re giving up huge leads. We’re not maintaining our game,” Walker said. “We’ve got to be better as a whole.”
With Irving out, Charlotte took advantage against Boston’s reserves early, stretching its lead to as many as 18 in the second quarter and taking a 16-point lead into halftime.
Three Things to Know: Celtics win streak at 10, should we call them contenders?
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Celtics make it 10 wins in a row… is what Boston is doing sustainable? Are they contenders? Wednesday, Boston coach Brad Stevens finally unleashed his ultimate offensive weapon — Aron Baynes. For the first 11 games of the season Stevens been using some misdirection, putting the ball in the hands of Kyrie Irving, and having him do dribble handoffs with Al Horford. But that was just the hors-d’oeuvre, Baynes is the meal. Wednesday night against the Lakers Stevens finally unleashed the fury that is Baynes.
Okay, maybe that is overstating it. Slightly. But Baynes had 21 points on 12 shots starting in place of Horford — who is in the league’s concussion protocol — as he overwhelmed the Lakers inside on Boston’s way to a fairly comfortable 107-96 win over rival Los Angeles.
That’s 10 wins in a row for Boston, and it lead’s to the question: Just how sustainable is this? We knew Boston would be good this season, but are they contenders right now, even without Gordon Hayward?
Yes, they are.
Making the Finals is a good definition of a contender and this season that is not some far-off dream in Boston, it’s reasonable.
Boston moves up to contender status because of their defense — the best in the NBA this young season. Just ask Lonzo Ball, who was rudely introduced to Marcus Smart Wednesday.
No, this Boston run is not sustainable in the “they are going 80-2 this season” kind of way — they have won 10 in a row against the 10th softest schedule in the league so far. Think of who they have beaten and there are a lot of rebuilding teams (Knicks, Kings, Sixers, Lakers, Hawks) and even when they get the Spurs they get them without Kawhi Leonard. There will be rough patches ahead. The Celtics have had role players playing over their heads a little (see Baynes dropping 21), and while the young tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum keep playing incredibly well, they will have peaks and valleys as well.
However, Boston is a real and legitimate threat to come out of the East. Kyrie Irving has bought into what Stevens preaches on offense, and more importantly has hustled more on defense than we have seen in years (he doesn’t die on nearly as many screens as he did in Cleveland). Horford and Irving have developed a fast on-court chemistry, and their two-man dribble handoff game is hard to stop. Role players like Smart and Marcus Morris can sustain what they are doing, and Stevens puts guys in great positions to succeed.
The shadow of LeBron James still looms over the East. While the Cavaliers have struggled early — and there are legitimate questions about how good their defense can be — LeBron has been to seven straight NBA Finals for a reason. He has other gears has not even thought about reaching yet (well, except when Bradley Beal and John Wall decided to piss him off before a game). Getting through the Cavaliers to the Finals will be a huge mountain to climb — you are going to have to knock out the champ, he’s not just handing over the belt.
However, that is a question for May. Right now the Celtics have won 10 in a row, they thumped their rival Lakers, and the Celtics are going to keep Bostonians warm through a long winter. This team is for real.
2) Detroit remains the team pushing Boston… is that sustainable? The Detroit Pistons are 8-3, and Andre Drummond is shooting 68.3 percent from the free throw line. Those two facts are a bigger surprise than what is happening in Bean Town, and after the Pistons handled the Pacers on Wednesday, it’s time to ask:
Is Detroit for real? Is this sustainable?
Define for real. The Pistons are currently on a 60-win pace, and that’s not happening. They are not a threat to Boston now or Cleveland whenever that team decides to wake up.
However, are the Pistons a playoff team? Absolutely. One that can make the second round? Let’s see what the matchups are and how teams are playing in April, but it’s not out of the question.
The Pistons are ninth in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating to start the season, and while being top 10 in both may not hold up (the defense may falter, teams are shooting fairly well against them and getting to the line at a good clip; and the offense still takes more long mid-rangers than I like) this is a team we thought would take a step forward last season but never got on track thanks to the Reggie Jackson injury, which threw everything off. Now, they are back on that trajectory, and Avery Bradley has been a better version of KCP so far to help that cause. They get some easy buckets in transition now, and they have guys who can shoot the rock.
Detroit has been one of the bigger surprises of the young season, but this is no fluke. Andre Drummond is for real (and not just at the charity stripe), and so is Detroit in its new downtown building. Stan Van Gundy has things back on track in the motor city.
3) Kevin Durant sits, Warriors don’t even break stride. Just a reminder: The Golden State Warriors won an NBA title and then had a 73-win season BEFORE Kevin Durant arrived. As Jeff Van Gundy said after the game, take Durant off this team — as a thigh contusion did Wednesday — and they are still the title favorites.
Minnesota came into Oracle Arena on a five-game win streak and as the poster child for “team on the rise,” then for two and a half quarters the upstarts hung around with the champs. Then, sparked by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (with some help off the bench from Shaun Livingston and JaVale McGee) the Warriors went on an 18-4 run, pulled away, never looked back and went on to win 125-101.
That’s just what the Warriors do. To everyone. So enjoy highlights of Curry and Thompson going off and know that with the thematic question of the day on this post — is this team for real? — we were never asking it about Golden State.