Celtics drop first game of trip to Nuggets, 97-90

Celtics drop first game of trip to Nuggets, 97-90
February 20, 2013, 2:45 am
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DENVER — The Denver Nuggets came into Tuesday's game against the Boston Celtics with a Mile High attitude after losing a game at Boston earlier this month that they felt they should have won.

That, coupled with a strong second half was just what the Nuggets needed to down the C's, 97-90.

Boston had a chance to make it a one possession game when Kevin Garnett missed a contested shot in the paint that was rebounded by the Nuggets.

Ty Lawson, who was fouled with 20.7 seconds to play, converted both free throws to seal the victory.

Boston had fell behind by as many as eight points in the fourth, but a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley tied the game at 84.

Denver got a quick 3-ball from Danilo Gallinari and then a put-back basket by Lawson to go ahead 89-84 with less than five minutes to play.

From there, the C's continued to play an uphill game which is a killer when you have to do it at 5,280 feet above sea level.

Yes, there were a number of players for both teams - probably more Celtics players - tugging at their shorts in hopes of catching their breaths Tuesday night.

Considering how the Celtics have been playing so far above their heads lately, you would have thought they would have been more than content to play in the clouds.

In many ways, the game had the makings of their first matchup which ended with the Celtics emerging with a 118-114 triple overtime victory.

While revenge might be overstating Denver's approach to Tuesday's game, there was no doubt that it was a topic of discussion among the Denver players and their head coach, George Karl.

"When you're a good team like the Celtics with that tradition, everybody wants to beat them," Karl said prior to the game. "So what gives them (Denver players) a little added advantage, I don't know. But I think our guys know we should have won that game in Boston. We have a loss because of it, and we have a three-game losing streak because of it. There will be some pride for us tonight."

Pride was indeed on display.

But more than that, the Nuggets simply made all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor that the C's simply could not contend with or match with a play of their own.

If it wasn't Lawson breaking down Boston's defenders, it was Gallinari raising up for a 3-pointer or Kenneth Faried aka the "Manimal" giving the Nuggets multiple possessions that added up to a 78-70 lead for the Nuggets going into the fourth.

For most of the game, it was a relatively close contest with neither team pulling away.

And leading the way for the most part was the guards for both teams.

Boston got a strong offensive showing in the first half by Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee who each had 12 first-half points. They finished with 17 and 15 points, respectively.

Meanwhile, Lawson was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the first half and had 12 points. The Nuggets also got a solid start from Gallinari who led all players at the half with 13 points. They each finished with a game-high 26 points.

Although Boston led most of the first half, they needed a last-second jumper by Lee to take a 50-49 into the break.

As the third quarter progressed, the tempo seemed to ever-so-slightly shift more and more in favor of Denver.

Shots that went down in the first half for Boston, weren't dropping as often. And the Nuggets were getting contributions from others besides Lawson and Gallinari.