Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
DENVER – The Denver Nuggets are cruising along in the early going and showed what they are capable of when they put their foot on the pedal in the fourth quarter in a 103-88 win over Utah on Saturday. The Nuggets will try to turn the trick again against a top contender when they host the Boston Celtics on Monday.
Denver outscored the Jazz 35-15 in the fourth quarter on Saturday to continue the team’s best start since 1976, and coach Michael Malone insists his squad is just doing the little things right. “We’re third in defensive efficiency,” Malone told reporters. “Our turnovers are way down, and we’re the best rebounding team in the NBA. And those are things, I don’t care if the league is 3-point shooting or not, when you defend and when you take care of it and you rebound, you’re going to give yourself a chance every night.” The Celtics had a four-game winning streak come to an end with a 102-101 loss at Indiana on Saturday, and center Al Horford is using it as a learning experience. “Games like this will help us learn to value possessions,” Horford told reporters. “There were times I’m not even focused on offense, I’m thinking defensively we need to get stops. … We have to be better in that regard. Some of these games early in the season that have worked in our favor but we’re living on the edge a little too much. Maybe this will wake us up as a group and understand that we need to be better.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBCS Boston, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (6-3): Boston point guard Kyrie Irving scored 18 points in Saturday’s setback but missed a key layup attempt in the final seconds and put the loss on his own shoulders. “Great play call by Coach Stevens and I just smoked the layup,” Irving told reporters. “It was just my body position. That was fully my responsibility to get open and to finish that shot. I rushed it. I got my left hand on the backboard and instead of finishing the play, I just put too much whatever on it and it just shorted. This one was my responsibility. I should have put us up four with that layup.” Irving knocked down 4-of-7 from beyond the arc in the loss and is 15-of-27 over the last four contests.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (8-1): Center Nikola Jokic scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting on Saturday but still managed a double-double with 16 assists and 10 rebounds. “I think it speaks to his greatness,” Malone told reporters of Jokic. “Some guys can impact the game with solely their scoring and their ability to score baskets. Nikola can dominate a game without scoring at all and not many guys can do that.” Jokic is 17-of-42 from the floor over the last four games but is averaging 9.5 assists in that span – all wins.
1. Celtics PF Marcus Morris is 18-of-29 from 3-point range over the last five contests.
2. Nuggets PF Paul Millsap is shooting 59.1 percent from the floor during the four-game winning streak.
3. Boston took the two meetings last season by a total of seven points.