Jordan Crawford had 22 points and the Boston Celtics led wire-to-wire in a 106-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden on Friday night.
The Celtics scored 39 points in the first quarter, and by the second period, they had jumped out to a 27-point lead. The Nuggets battled back in third period, using a 20-4 run to trim the lead to three, but Boston weathered the storm and fought off Denver for the remainder of the game.
Ty Lawson, who scored 20 points, left this game late in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. He did not return.
The C's, who had a season-low 10 turnovers, shot 52 percent from the floor, getting great performances from role players such as Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass in the win.
The Nuggets hit on 44 percent of their shots.
Let's analyze the keys to this game.
Celtics Kept Their Composure
The Celtics are a very young and inexperienced team, and they could have folded when the more savvy Nuggets furiously battled back within the first six minutes of the third quarter, but instead, they responded with a 7-0 run after Denver's 20-4 spurt.
Crawford did a great job of keeping everything under control, helping Boston re-discover its flow offensively and carrying some of the load in scoring the basketball.
Also, Humphries deserves big props in this one. Being one of the only veterans on the team, he took matters into his own hands when things got tough, knocking down jumpers, scoring in the points, making great off-the-ball cuts and hustling all over the floor.
Humphries ended up with 18 points and seven rebounds in just 23-and-a-half minutes.
Scintillating Shooting by Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford
Avery Bradley scored 13 of his 18 points in the first quarter, and as a duo, Bradley and Crawford combined for 40 points off 17-of-24 shooting.
Bradley did a masterful job getting open looks, running around screens and popping mid-range jumpers and getting loose in the corners where he drilled a couple of threes.
Crawford not only shot the ball well, but he also totaled eight assists in this one. Plus, he did an outstanding job of breaking down the defense.
Awful Defensive Rotations by Denver
Denver is not known as a good defensive team, but what we saw on Friday night was simply disgusting.
The Nuggets continually lost their men defensively, allowing Boston far too many clean looks at the basket. The C's have been struggling offensively all year, and yet, they managed 64 points in the first half. That is inexcusable for a Denver team that has playoff aspirations in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets' defense improved as the game progressed, but they dug themselves too deep of a hole early on and were never able to fully recover.
Bad Possessions for Denver Down the Stretch
The Nuggets' offense was humming in the third quarter, due in large part to Lawson cutting up the Celtics' defense, but even before Lawson went down with the hamstring injury, Denver's offense halted.
Maybe the Nuggets just ran out of gas coming back from a 27-point deficit, but late in the game, they just took some terrible shots and appeared to be forcing the issue. Even Andre Miller, a seasoned veteran, took an ill-advised three late in the fourth period that essentially sealed Denver's fate.
Outside of the first six minutes of the third quarter, the Nuggets' offense wasn't good at all.