The Boston Celtics picked up their second win in a row after defeating the Denver Nuggets, 106-98. The Celtics led by 27 points in the first half but the Nuggets managed to cut the lead all the way down to 3 in the third quarter. But thanks to tremendous games by Kris Humphries and Jordan Crawford, Boston held on to win the game.
I was without words throughout the first quarter. Boston exploded for a 39-15 lead, and looked very much like a team the rest of the league should be fearful of. They played suffocating defense -- no, more like black hole defense. The Nuggets, one of the supreme and fastest-moving offenses in the NBA, were held to a dreadful 23.8 percent shooting.
Boston managed to halt every single Denver attack, inside and out, translating it into efficient opportunities on the offensive end of the floor. In only the first quarter, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jordan Crawford, combined for 31 points. The Nuggets managed to make some noise in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 14 points, but the Celts closed the half robustly with a 20-point lead, at 64-44
But, oh, how the tides turned in the second half. In less than eight minutes, the Nuggets turned the Celtics once 27-point lead into a mere 3-point lead. Boston was stagnant on offense and Denver finally started to hit shots and get to the free throw line. However, Kris Humphries and the Celtics backcourt infused some energy into TD Garden to close the quarter, building the lead back to 10.
The Celtics' bench started the fourth quarter with an admirable effort, continuing to force a muzzle on the Nuggets' run. By the time the starters came in with about five minutes remaining, the Celts had an 11 point lead. At that point, the Nuggets made a late run, slicing the lead down to 7 with less than one minute to go, but Jordan Crawford ended their hopes with a 25-foot three-pointer to assure the victory.
Crawford led the Celtics' starters with 22 points and 8 assists. Avery Bradley also had a terrific game, with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Kris Humphries came off the bench, totaling 18 points and 7 rebounds. He also posted a game-high plus/minus of +26.
The New Crawford
Just a thought, but should we begin to consider Jordan Crawford as one of the Boston Celtics' best young assets? It's starting to become obvious that Crawford isn't the player he once was with the Wizards. You know, the selfish, immature ball-hog that didn't play a lick of defense. I still see a player that loves to score the ball more than anything else, but he has stepped up his defense and is proving to be a very good passer. With another terrific 22-point performance tonight, it might be time to look at the 25-year-old Crawford as a large part of Boston's future.
Respect for Hump
Kris Humphries came off the bench and played his best game this season, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 of shooting, to go along with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. In my opinion, his best play of the game came late in the second quarter when he chased down an offensive rebound. While the ball was mid-flight, Humphries read the trajectory of the ball, adjusted his positioning, and hustled over to grab the rebound.
While that play may go down as just one offensive rebound, it represents what Humphries brought to the floor tonight: hustle, energy, and presence. To put it simply, when Hump was on the floor, you knew it. Whether he was cutting to the basket, running the floor in transition, fighting for rebounds, or protecting the rim, Kris Humphries made a name for himself. If he hasn't won you over yet, I don't know when he will.
The Celtics will travel to New York to face the Knicks at 12 P.M. on Sunday. On Tuesday, the C's will have a reunion with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the Brooklyn Nets, which should make for must-watch television. Pierce will not play, but it is still must-watch television.