Big second half carries Celtics over Nuggets
DENVER — The end came fast and landed with a thud.
The Celtics snapped Denver’s blistering winning streak at eight Sunday afternoon after the Nuggets’ of fense melted into oblivion for more than a quarter. At the heart of the 105-87 home loss was Boston’s devastating 31-3 run that started near the end of the third quar ter and lasted deep into the four th quar ter.
The Nuggets (34-19) will now travel to Golden State for back-to-back games, which start Monday.
“They turned up the heat, got into us, switched ever ything, and we allowed that to kill our offensive flow, and then we started complaining, and whining, not getting back, not competing,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
With the game unraveling, Malone pulled Nikola Jokic with 4:41 remaining after back-to-back possessions where he failed to get back on defense. Jokic’s frustration with the officiating was obvious.
“I think the whole 30 teams are complaining and whining,” Jokic said. “We are just one of them. … They’re doing their job. We need to do our job. Sometimes it’s miscommunication, like arguments, of course, like in ever y job.”
He finished the oncepromising game with 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his 14th tripledouble this season. Malone reiterated after the game Jokic can’t let the of ficiating dictate his play.
Boston’s two stars, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, were at the heart of the comeback. Together, they
bullied the Nuggets for 48 points combined. Denver, which led by 14 late in the third quarter, fueled Boston’s break with six second-half turnovers.
Michael Porter Jr. finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, but was just 1 for 12 from the 3-point line. He appeared to hurt his hand on a breakaway dunk in the first half.
“I didn’t injure it, I tweaked it,” Porter said. “It’s not anything serious. It was on my shooting hand, but that’s not why I missed 11 3s. … Hopefully never have another one of those nights from three again in my career.”
Guard Jamal Murray missed his four th consecutive game with right knee soreness. His absence, par ticularly when Jokic rested, was all too apparent.
Amid a chorus of “M-V-P” chants, Jokic ran a clinic in the third quarter. He scored 14 points and ser ved five assists, picking apart the Celtics’ defense one alley-oop lob or pickand-roll at a time. One on whirling action, he threaded a needle to Facu Campazzo for an easy layup. Later, Campazzo whipped a baseline pass to Jokic for his 33rd dunk of the season.
By the time Jokic’s run was over, the Nuggets were up 79-74 but the Celtics, behind a smattering of Brown buckets, wouldn’t budge.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called Jokic one of the most difficult challenges he’s ever had to scheme against.
“To me, the step that he’s made towards being an MVP candidate is that he punishes you by scoring the ball,” said Stevens, noting Jokic’s former inclination to always hunt passing lanes.
Of course, Jokic is equally comfortable doing both. On Sunday, he had six assists before scoring his first bucket. Not that he gives a second thought to anything other than the end result.
CLEVELAND — Zion Williamson scored 38 points and Brandon Ingram had 27 points and eight assists in rallying the New Orleans Pelicans to a victory over the injuryplagued Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Williamson, who scored 25 points in the first half, fell one shy of his career best of 39 set March 26 against Denver. He made 16 of 22 field goal attempts and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds as New Orleans pulled within one game of the final play-in tournament spot in the West.
The Pelicans, who trailed by 13 points in the second quarter, went ahead for good at 108-107 on Ingram’s jumper with 2:33 remaining. Williamson followed with consecutive layups to extend the lead to five before Ingram iced the game from the line.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Khris Middleton scored 21 points, Bobby Portis added 16 points —making four 3-pointers — and 10 rebounds and Milwaukee beat Orlando to end a three-game losing streak.
Milwaukee was again without star Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a sore left knee, but it mattered little as Middleton shot 8 of 13 from the field and added eight rebounds and five assists.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 32 points on a career-high eight 3-pointers and Atlanta rallied to beat Charlotte without Trae Young.
Clint Capela added 20 points and 15 rebounds for the surging Hawks. They have won six of seven to take sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Caris Levert scored 34 points, Malcolm Brogdon and Donantas Sabonis fell just short of triple-doubles and Indiana held off Memphis.
Brogdon had 29 points, matched
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-anthony Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds, D’angelo Russell scored 27 points and Minnesota beat Chicago.
Ricky Rubio connected on five of his six 3-point attempts and scored 17 points.
Two days after his first 50-point game, Zach Lavine scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half as Chicago tried to mount a comeback. Lavine was 13 of 28 from the field and 4 of 12 from 3-point territory.
NEW YORK — Julius Randle scored 26 points and the New York Knicks recovered after blowing an 18-point lead to beat the Toronto Raptors.
RJ Barrett added 19 as the Knicks (27-27) won their second straight to get back to .500. Nerlens Noel finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.