Celtics rally fizzles in Denver

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Celtics rally fizzles in Denver

DENVER The Boston Celtics finally got the highest scoring team, the Denver Nuggets, to play their brand of slow down, drag-it-out basketball.

But the game's tempo swinging their way was too little too late as the Nuggets hung on for a 98-91 win.

A pair of free throws by Kevin Garnett made it a 94-91 game with about a minute to play.

After a Celtics stop defensively, Ray Allen's potential game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark.

That would be Boston's last gasp at what had been an impressive fourth quarter rally.

The rebound wound up in the familiar hands of Kenneth Faried, who snatched a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with 18 points.

The Celtics (23-21) have now lost their second straight and are now 2-3 during their current West coast road trip that moves back to the East for the next three games (Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia).

Denver shot a higher percentage and more than doubled the Celtics (28-12) on the boards in the first half.

It was the kind of basketball cocktail that would have the most talented team looking a bit punch-drunk on the floor, as the Celtics fell behind by 13 points at the half.

Denver's control of the game remained as strong as ever in the third, but the C's positioned themselves to get the Nuggets lead down to single digits on several occasions.

But Boston simply could not get over that double-digit hump, and trailed 80-68 going into the fourth.

Boston managed to get it down to an even 10 points, and had a chance to make it a single-digit game but Kevin Garnett threw an errant pass resulting in a turnover.

The C's eventually got the deficit down to single digits, but consistently failed to get the much-needed stop defensively or the clutch basket that we're so used to to them getting in close, down-to-the-wire affairs.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."