The Celtics went back to the starting lineup that won them the game against Portland on Thursday with Brandon Bass starting in place of Tyler Zeller. I guess they didn't want to mess with a winning strategy after getting their first win against a Western Conference playoff opponent in quite a long time. The strategy started to pay dividends immediately as Bass took advantage of the rookie Jusuf Nurkic and went 3-3 to start the game. Unfortunately, Jameer Nelson seemed unhappy about the Celtics trading him to a lottery team, so he decided to hit 2 threes in the first 6 minutes of the game to go along with a steal and an assist.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Celtics were already down 17-12. Nelson continued to lay it on the Celtics. He hit a tough fadeaway in Marcus Smart's face and then hit another 3 pointer from about 4 feet behind the arc. Of the Nuggets first 22 points, Jameer Nelson had 11. Marcus Smart was able to slow Jameer down for a little while before picking up 2 quick fouls in only 5 minutes. At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics trailed 28-20. The only reason they were able to stay within striking distance was because of an impressive effort from the starting front court (Bass and Sullinger) who combined for 14 points and 6 rebounds in the first quarter.
Jared Sullinger kept his solid play rolling into the second quarter, and the Celtics were able to cut down the lead down to 39-36 with his 12 points and 4 rebounds with 5:30 remaining in the second quarter. The Celtics took their first lead of the game with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter after 2 straight buckets by Evan Turner. As has become customary with the Celtics this season, they were unable to close out the quarter. and Denver was able to close out the quarter on a 7-0 run. At the end of the first half, the Celtics were down 48-42. Sullinger led the Celtics in scoring with 12 points while Jameer Nelson had his way with the Celtics by dropping 15 points and 4 dimes. The Celtics being out rebounded in the first half 27-18 was a major culprit in their deficit.
The Celtics started out the second half in love with the jump shot, and the Nuggets were able to capitalize. I counted right under 5 minutes into the second half before the Celtics had a shot going to the basket. Tyler Zeller finally hit a layup that led to a Celtics run. After being down 12 early in the third quarter, the Celtics cut the lead to 61-56 at the midway point of the third quarter. The Celtics kept at it, and Marcus Smart hit a game tying 3 pointer at the 3 minute mark and then hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Celtics up 70-69. After 2 free throws by the Nuggets, Smart had a great assist to Crowder in the corner to put the Celtics up by 2 points. Unfortunately, he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls within a 20 second stretch right after that. Both of these fouls sent the Nuggets to the free throw line, but the Celtics finally closed out a quarter and kept a lead of 75-74 going into the final quarter.
Throughout the fourth quarter, the Celtics went tit-for-tat with the Nuggets. Sullinger went on a cold streak and missed some big free throws, and with 3 minutes left to go in the game, the game was tied up 93-93. Up 98-97 with a minute to go and possession of the ball, the Celtics went to a struggling Jared Sullinger and he committed his 2 offensive foul in a 30 second stretch. The Celtics forced Jameer Nelson into a tough runner, and Tyler Zeller came down with the rebound. Avery Bradley followed that up with a huge jumper from the elbow to put the Celtics up 3. The Celtics played some good defense on the other end to force a missed jumper. However, JJ Hickson came up with a big offensive rebound and putback to make it a one point game with 14 seconds left. Turner was fouled immediately, and he missed both free throws. Fortunately for the Celtics, Teyshaun Prince forced a contested Jameer Nelson jumper, and the Celtics won 100-99.
The player of the game had to be Avery Bradley. He had 18 points (6/11 from the field, 4/5 from three) and 6 rebounds. He also had 8 of the Celtics last 10 points, and he hit the big time jumper that ended up being the one that won the Celtics the game.