DENVER It took the Boston Celtics more than half the season to develop a successful rhythm.
It took less than a week for them to lose it which was among the many contributors to their 97-90 loss at Denver on Tuesday.
"You get off four or five days, it kind of takes away the momentum," said Boston's Jeff Green who led all C's in scoring with 20 points. "But I still feel we came out strong; executed very well."
There were signs of slippage during the C's practice on Monday afternoon.
"I felt like we had a good practice, but you could see a couple things we were a little rusty on," said Celtics guard Courtney Lee who had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. "Today was a good measuring stick for that."
Although the C's weren't able to sustain the kind of consistent execution that has become a trait of theirs recently, they were still in the game up until the final seconds of play.
To see the C's struggle as they did on Tuesday, is not all that surprising.
Kevin Garnett has seen it happen time and time again, and not just to the Celtics, either.
Although the Nuggets won, Denver guardforward Andre Iguodala missed all seven of his shots from the field and finished with just one point.
"He's known as a shooter, can score the ball," Garnett said. "He didn't look like he had much of a rhythm from the free throw line or anything. That's the league, though. You come back from a long rest. You get one day to prepare for multiple games. I think your rhythm gets better as the games go. We're no different from that."
Boston's inability to establish a rhythm was certainly one of the biggest reasons for their loss on Tuesday. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Second-chance points will likely play a prominent role in tonight's game with these two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in that category. Denver averages an NBA-best 16.4 second-chance points per game while the C's are dead-last at 9.9 per game.
WHAT WE SAW: It's no surprise that Denver won the rebounding war and with it, multiple opportunities for second-chance points. Boston limited them to 13 second-chance points which is below Denver's season average. But similar to the loss at Charlotte, Boston found itself coming up short in the efforthustle categories such as points in the paint (42-32), second-chance points (13-10) and fast break points (11-8).
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs Andre Miller: Neither will start, but it's safe to say that both will have a say in the game's final outcome. It was Miller's strong play in the latter stages of their Feb. 10 game that helped Denver get into overtime. And it was Terry's defense against Miller that played a pivotal role in the Celtics finally putting Denver away.
WHAT WE SAW: This was a wash for the most part, with neither player putting up big numbers or making a major impact. Terry had seven points along with three assists while Miller had 11 points off the Nuggets bench, to go with two assists and a blocked shot.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green continues to play at a level comparable to what the Celtics were hoping for this season. He has reached double digits scoring in eight of Boston's last 10 games. That includes a 17-point performance against the Nuggets on Feb. 10.
WHAT WE SAW: Green almost single-handedly brought the Celtics back in this one. His back-to-back 3s early in the fourth took what looked like a Denver take-over in the making, and made it a one-point game that had the Nuggets fans a bit nervous. He finished with a team-high 20 points off the bench, shooting 8-for-12 from the field while also registering a pair of assists to go with a steal and two blocked shots. "All the credit to my teammates," Green told CSNNE.com. "The way we've been playing as a whole; we've been helping each other out. My team has been getting me open, and my shots have been falling."
STAT TO TRACK: Boston hasn't exactly made it rain with 3s this season, but that might change tonight. Denver has allowed each of its last three opponents to make at least 10 3s each. Among that threesome you'll find the Celtics, who had a bakers dozen's worth of 3s on 13-for-30 shooting in their meeting earlier this month. For the season, Boston ranks 27th in the league in 3s made per game (5.6) while opponents are averaging 8.5 made 3s against Denver this season. Only Charlotte (8.8) is allowing more made 3s per game this season.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston was slightly better than their season average in 3s made against the Nuggets, but it still wasn't enough for the win. And while Denver didn't exactly put the defensive clamps on Boston, limiting the C's to just 7-for-20 shooting on 3s was indeed a step in the right direction for Denver.