If you live on the East Coast, I hope you opted to sleep instead of watching tonight's disaster in Denver. The Nuggets rolled over the Celtics, 129-98, as Boston lost its fifth game in a row. The C's are now one game back from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but they're also only 2.5 games removed from the second worst record in the league.
Jeff Green was scorching hot in the first quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but that was the only highlight from the period. The rest of the team shot 5-for-18 on their way to only 12 points, for a team total of 23. Meanwhile, Denver got off to a fast 31 point start with four three-pointers. And they didn't slow down in the second frame, ending the half 10-of-18 from beyond the arc on their way to a ridiculous 68-45 lead. Boston lacked a sense of urgency defending Denver treys, often failing to close out, leaving them wide open.
Boston scored a quarter-high 33 points in the third quarter, but they still couldn't stop the Nuggets. Denver achieved 100 points with 43 seconds to go in the period before leading 103-78 heading until the fourth. With the game well out of hand, both teams (and the referees) sleepwalked through the rest of the game before the Celtics fell, 129-98.
The Celtics looked like zombies playing in the thin Denver air tonight, as they allowed a season-high 129 points, eclipsing the previous high of 119, which was set on Sunday by the Thunder. Ouch. They also shot only 38.5 percent, though Green was fairly impressive with 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting. I'm not a fan of the plus/minus statistic, but Avery Bradley's minus-40 pops off the box score. He consistently left Denver's backcourt open, as Randy Foye and Ty Lawson combined for 42 points.
Six Nuggets total reached 10 points tonight, with the leader being Foye. The guard had 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting, with 12 of those attempts being three-pointers. Foye was unstoppable, as was power forward Kenneth Faried, who was the recipient of a loud alley-oop on his way to 21 points and 13 rebounds. Despite a fair share of turnovers from both squads, the Nuggets still outscore the Celtics 24-to-9 on the fast break.
Bayless quiet in debut, but Stevens is encouraged
Freshly acquired Jerryd Bayless played point guard in the first half alongside Jeff Green and Keith Bogans; but in the second half he shifted to the two, and rookie Phil Pressey played the point. Unfortunately Bayless didn't standout at any point during the game, as he totaled only 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting. But Brad Stevens was still encouraged by the performance. After the game he said, "[Bayless] tried to do everything right. I thought he tried to make the extra pass -- he probably tried to overpass."
"He was clearly trying to fit in and be a good teammate. He was probably not as aggressively looking for his shot as he normally does or should." Stevens continued, "But he tried to defend, he was pretty physical, I thought he helped us. He did nothing but increase his stock in my eyes."
One positive to draw from the blowout is the fact that Bayless was able to play 26 minutes. He is obviously still in the process of learning some of Brad Stevens' schemes, and this in-game experience will only help him along more rapidly.
Sully ejected, but it's for the best
Jared Sullinger made a great play early in the first quarter, stepping up and taking a charge by Wilson Chandler. Unfortunately, the former Ohio State big man got hit hard on his injured left hand and immediately went to the bench wincing in pain. Even though Sullinger returned, with 8 points and 7 rebounds, I still think he needs to rest until he is completely healthy.
And Sullinger did just that, at least tonight. Down 75-51 early in the second half, Sullinger accidently slapped J.J. Hickson on the back of the head and got called for a flagrant foul. Less than 30 seconds later, Sullinger was ejected after elbowing Kenneth Faried on the side of the head. I can't help but think this is a blessing in disguise for Sully, because he has hurt his hand countless times while playing, and it doesn't look like it'll get better anytime soon.
In only his second season, he must continue to mature his skills on the court, and I can't help but think his hand injury is stunting his development. But Sullinger won't be able to get healthy unless he rests, and I think it's time for the Celtics to consider that scenario like they did with Kelly Olynyk earlier this season.
Wallace, Green were positives
Despite a disappointing overall team performance, small forwards Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace played extremely well tonight. The stat line isn't too impressive for Wallace -- 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 23 minutes -- but I thought he quietly had one of his finest games of the season. Wallace hustled hard and was very aggressive when looking for his shot. The latter, of course, has been a anomaly this season, so it was refreshing to see him attack the rim.
Jeff Green had 11 first quarter points before finishing with a team-high 17. Green was able to take advantage of the game's fast tempo by pushing the pace and drawing fouls with aggressive transition drives to the basket. This wide-open style of play suits him, and the Celtics would benefit from putting him into situations like this more frequently.
Boston will travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Wednesday night for their second game in five nights. The Celtics will then travel to Golden State on Friday and Portland on Saturday to close out their arduous West Coast road trip.