Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

    Celtics’ undefeated home record finally broken against Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: 10 takeaways


    Boston narrowly lost a battle between two genuine contenders.

    Jayson Tatum’s shot at the buzzer missed and the Celtics lost at home for the first time this season. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    The Celtics finally lost at home on Friday, falling to the Nuggets 102-100 in a battle of true contenders.

    Here are the conclusions.

    Kristaps Porzingis kisses Derrick White on the forehead after a play

    Watch: Jayson Tatum receives a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk

    1. There will be a lot of talk about the Celtics’ struggles down the stretch, and that’s understandable after Friday’s loss. The Celtics’ offense doesn’t always look pretty when they’re trailing in the final seconds. especially after watching Jayson Tatum try to take on three defenders and miss at the rim, or after watching another ugly jumper fall harmlessly off the rim.

    “I think I rushed it a little bit, and that’s on me,” Tatum said afterward.

    But the stats don’t back up concerns about the Celtics in crunch time. They have the fourth-most clutch wins, according to the NBA stats site with a 13-8 record, and are tied with the Bucks for the second-best clutch net rating at 21.4. From a basic statistical perspective, they score 10.6 points per game in clutch opportunities, which is the seventh-best result in the league.

    A more accurate way to describe the Celtics’ problems might be to say that they don’t always perform well when going for the tying or go-ahead shot, which could prove to be a concern at some point down the road, but the Celtics have been pretty good. avoiding those situations this season, which is more important anyway. After all, you don’t want a team to rely on tying or go-ahead shots, because they’re always more difficult for countless reasons (referees swallow whistles down the stretch, physical defenses are tighter, etc.).

    “I mean, your best player has the ball and a chance, and whether it was two guys or three guys, you made a layup and he just missed it,” Joe Mazzulla said. “So the balance is that you trust your best player to make a play, and he just doesn’t make it.”

    2. If there’s one big takeaway from Friday’s loss, it’s that the Nuggets looked like the defending champions and the Celtics looked like real challengers to the throne. With all due respect to the Timberwolves (whose defense also makes them a legitimate challenger) and the Thunder (who have an electric superstar but a lot of unproven youth), the Nuggets looked like the best team in the Western Conference: the Final Boss of the video game with a giant Bowser-sized superstar standing in the way of a Celtics team in search of a title. The Celtics opted not to double Jokic, and he posted an obscene stat line of 34-12-9 on 14-of-22 shooting. They let Jamal Murray get on with it, and he burned them to 35-8-5 on an even more efficient 15-for-21.

    “They put you in a difficult situation,” Mazzulla said. “And I thought we did a good job of continuing to fight and keep working – out of rhythm here, out of rhythm there – and it literally came down to the last possession.”

    3. Denver has some answers for Jayson Tatum, but Friday’s game felt like one of those nights where his struggles have more to do with his own mistakes than defense. He got several decent looks, but finished with 22 points and made 9 of 24 shots. Jaylen Brown was worse: 13 points and made 6 of 19 shots. They combined to shoot 2 of 17 from 3-point range. This year’s team is much better equipped to handle those types of shooting nights and create enough space to avoid them.

    Still, if you want to worry about something, worry less about the last-second offense and more about what will happen if Tatum and Brown go cold together at an inopportune time. As genuinely great as both players are, there is a story that that happened.

    4. The game began with a duel between Jokic and Porzingis, who played 1-on-1 for much of the first quarter and were both singularly unable to defend each other. Jokic couldn’t get to the 3-point line and Porzingis scored 15 points while going 3-for-4 from deep. Porzingis couldn’t keep Jokic out of the post, and Jokic scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

    The Nuggets later put smaller players on Porzingis and used their bigs to fill the paint, while the Celtics opted for single coverage in an effort to force Jokic to beat them (and with a lot of help from Murray, he did). .

    Mazzulla, meanwhile, wanted the Celtics to give Porzingis more post-ups.

    “We didn’t force it,” Porzingis said diplomatically. “I had like two or three opportunities, I think I had two post-ups. They missed both that are good for me. It’ll probably be different if I do just one of those. Maybe we’ll come back to it more times. I’m there ready. I love punishing these guys. … If they put a guard on me, I want to make them pay. I want them to pay, rebound, post up and commit those fouls. “There were probably situations where I could have done a better job of finding that moment to get down low and just be aggressive.”

    5. A complaint: What viewer watches the NBA and thinks “we need more hanging techniques”? What demographic does it serve to whistle a technique at Tatum here?

    Tatum went up to the rim, so the referee was within his rights. But part of the reason Tatum hung on the rim was to protect himself from a fall, and in those scenarios, our two cents here would be that the NBA should offer a lot more leeway.

    6. The Celtics were given a second chance at life after Jokic goaded them into violating the lane late in the fourth quarter with a twitch that would have earned him a false start if he were on an NFL offensive line. Instead, officials called it a jump ball, stating that Jokic also entered the fairway.

    That was a pretty tough decision for the Nuggets, as you can see here.

    More genius from Jokic, as he prompts the Celtics to violate the lane to give Aaron Gordon another free throw. The crowd can chant “BS” all they want but that doesn’t change reality.

    — BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 20, 2024

    7. The Celtics outrebounded the Nuggets 12-10 on the offensive glass, but were outrebounded 15-12 in second-chance points.

    8. On a more positive note, if the Nuggets can’t force the Celtics into more than two turnovers in a playoff scenario, the Celtics have a great chance to win a series.

    9. The Celtics feel they can learn from Friday’s loss.

    “I love it even though we lost,” Porzingis said. “It’s a great game for us. There are a lot of things that I think we’re going to look at and we can study them because this is a real team. “These are last year’s champions and that’s what we want to be.”

    10. Up next: The Celtics travel to Houston for a rematch of last weekend’s game against the Rockets. That contest begins Sunday at 7 p.m.


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