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Nuggets hold off 18-point Celtics comeback for 96-92 win after Kemba Walker injury

A scary night began with Kemba Walker injuring himself running head-first into Semi Ojeleye. Midway through the half, the Celtics reported concussion-like symptoms after he went to the hospital. Boston then surged back, down 19, to within one late.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Play stopped with the Celtics trailing 36-30 when Kemba Walker, scrambling to gain control of a loose ball, ran headfirst into the core of Semi Ojeleye. He dropped to the floor as the Nuggets ran in transition, Brad Stevens whistled timeout, and the thin air dropped dead in Denver.

The Nuggets escaped with a 96-92 win after Jamal Murray hit a spot-up three, then kicked to Paul Millsap for another with under one minute remaining to take a commanding six point lead after Boston got within two points. Murray sealed it, responding to Brown’s three with a right-elbow jumper to hold off one final surge.

In a scene scarily reminiscent to Gordon Hayward in Cleveland — somehow worse — Walker laid lifeless as trainers immediately pulled the cart to the floor. They put him on and strapped him in, with little visible movement, in a stoppage that felt the length of a quarter. Then they took him to a local hospital. The Celtics later reported concussion-like symptoms.

The Nuggets took a 19-point lead after the Celtics missed two free throws early in the second quarter, helping Denver push a 12-6 run. They led 59-40 midway through the third quarter, before Boston stormed back with stringent bench defense and a 7-2 run behind two straight Brad Wanamaker makes and a Javonte Green three that pulled Boston within 10 points before the fourth.

The Celtics exploded for an 9-for-13 shooting streak afterward that got them within a possession with over four minutes remaining. Marcus Smart and Robert Williams began the frame with consecutive blocks inside, before four straight Wanamaker free throws and a Rob put-back on Brown’s missed three made it a 70-63 game on a 6-0 run. Wanamaker scored 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting and was a +18.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Smart scored four straight, then a flurry of Nuggets turnovers midway through the frame put the Celtics in position to win. Rob scooped a loose Will Barton dribble then funneled to Green for a layup in transition. Grant Williams botched a layup inside after Nikola Jokic turned the next possession over. Tatum stripped Millsap for a third straight takeaway, that he slammed home on the other end to make it a 75-71 game.

Rob blocked Jokic inside to extend the run further and get Wanamaker another running layup. But Jokic found Millsap inside to stop the bleeding after over three minutes of scoreless play. Tatum split a pair of free throws, then Barton turned it over again to get Jaylen Brown a transition bucket and make it a one-point game. Brown would get Boston within a possession twice more, but Denver responded to each make before time expired.

Jokic and Millsap grabbed control of the game, with a free throw trip and steal by Jokic, followed by a Millsap three-point play inside. Murray’s late surge earned him 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. His free throws sealed the game after Brown pulled Boston within a possession one more time. Brown led Boston with 22 points on 6-for-15 shooting.

The Celtics head home to play the Kings after a 2-3 road trip on Monday.

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