Rocky Trip Continues With Loss To Nuggets

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Rocky Trip Continues With Loss To Nuggets  Empty Rocky Trip Continues With Loss To Nuggets

Post by mulcogiseng on Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:33 am

DENVER — When asked before last night’s game about the Celtics offense’s cold start to the season, Mike Malone asked for someone to pump the brakes.

“They’re improving rapidly,” the Denver coach said.

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas plays with his 6-year-old son, Jaiden, before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., right, drives against Houston Rockets guard James Harden during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Not rapidly enough, and not by the time Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was finished rifling his way to a career-high 48 points.

The Celtics fell to Murray’s Nuggets, 115-107, and are officially on their first losing streak of the season. They are also off to an 0-2 start on this five-city road trip.

The Celts have been slayed twice in as many games by scorers who have been able to find an easy rhythm against their defense. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left Saturday night, and Murray was on fire last night.

“It was a heck of an individual performance,” Brad Stevens said. “We tried a lot of different guys, a lot of different coverages, tried to go small and switch, tried to do a lot of different things. And he pretty much cooked us all night. He had a heck of a game.

“We sent two at him most of that time in the fourth. By then he’s just rolling so much. I thought he got a couple of easy ones that made him feel good right out of the gate. He had been struggling shooting the 3 coming into the game, at least versus his level. And we left him early. And he had that 10-point run in the first half when we were really scoring the ball. And from that point on, he was just lights out. I mean, he was tremendous.”

The Celtics allowed another close game to slip away. But they will have this image for a while, the sight of Murray effortlessly draining everything from 3-pointers (5-for-11) to an endless chain of finishes at the rim.

“Just try to break his rhythm,” Jaylen Brown said. “He hit us with the same move like four or five times, up-and-under, so we have to be cognizant of that and make it tough on him. We should have blitzed earlier and we could have changed up some stuff and noticed that he was getting it going. He had a really good game, man. I tip my hat to him.”

The Celtics thus squandered a great night by Kyrie Irving, who matched his season high with 31 points. Too few other Celtics were able to muster offensive support. Jayson Tatum (15 points) and Gordon Hayward (eight points, nine rebounds) shot a combined 8-for-21. Marcus Morris, in a rare off night, shot 3-for-9 and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.

It was only the second time in 10 games that Morris has gone without a trey.

Not that it was going to matter in the face of Murray’s one-man attack. Gary Harris and Trey Lyles, the next-highest Nuggets, scored 13 points apiece.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Murray capped an 11-4 Denver run with 6:45 left. Murray, who had nine points in the run, came back with his 40th point 37 seconds later. The Celtics had just taken a hit when Morris, angry about a charge call by referee Scott Foster, picked up a technical foul for protesting too much.

The result was a three-point Denver swing, when Nicola Jokic followed up Murray’s tech free throw by scoring out of the post.

“That was something by me about getting an offensive foul. I honestly didn’t think it was an offensive foul, but getting that technical, he was already going before that, so that wasn’t the reason he got hot,” Morris said. “But that was definitely selfish by me about getting that tech, because it’s fourth quarter, trying to fight back, giving them momentum like that was uncharacteristic and very selfish.”

The Nuggets guard hit two more jumpers in the next three minutes, with the Celtics answering each time. Murray’s drive with 2:53 left gave the Nuggets a 112-105 lead.

By the time he somehow snatched an inbound pass out of a crowd and beat Irving with a scoop, the Celtics were trailing by nine points (114-105) with 1:14 left. The Celtics would run out of clock.

Boston Celtics' issues in consecutive losses expose how much work still lies ahead

By Tom Westerholm
DENVER -- In an alternate timeline, Victor Oladipo misses a late 3-pointer, Jamal Murray doesn't have the ultimate breakout game, and the Boston Celtics are 8-2, riding the wave of a seven-game win streak and trailing only the 10-1 Toronto Raptors for first in the Eastern Conference.

But even in that timeline, all would not be fixed. The Celtics' offense still would have stalled out badly after the first quarter against the Denver Nuggets (and really, the first half of the first quarter). Kyrie Irving still would have been asked to do a significant amount of the heavy lifting as the Celtics tried to hold Denver off (Irving is capable of doing a lot of lifting, so maybe it would have worked).

Not to sound like Brad Stevens (although maybe he is starting to influence the media core): It's less about the results and more about how the team gets there.

"I thought we generated good looks a lot of the game and maybe there were spurts in the second quarter we weren't as good," Stevens said. "And that was the same thing in the Indiana game. But I thought we got a little iso-heavy at time. But we were driving it, getting to the rim. We were making extra passes out. We missed some inside-out threes. We didn't shoot it as well as we've been shooting it from three. But our attack was better and they're a good defensive team. Overall I leave here encouraged by our offense and discouraged by one guy that went nuts."

If you want something besides Jamal Murray's 48-point detonation to blame for Monday's loss, the isolation basketball probably deserves a look. After flying up and down the court in the opening minutes, the Celtics slowed down and couldn't turn stops into transition opportunities. Those transition opportunities were killing Denver early. When they dried up, the Celtics looked like a completely different team.

The Celtics keep showing flashes of what they could be. Those spurts need to happen more consistently, and when they slow down, the Celtics can't afford to bottom out and give up the lead completely. Nobody expects the Celtics to shoot 63 percent all four quarters like they did in the first on Monday, but getting to a comparable level to the team that pulled away from the Philadelphia 76ers on Opening Night or the one that throttled Detroit on the road would pull the Celtics a lot close to their lofty preseason expectations.

"An easy two here, or getting the clock to stop and then having them run another possession, it could always equate to us getting back in the game," Irving said. "So I think down the stretch we shot a few too many threes rather than taking the easy ones."

But even the shot selection doesn't seem like it gets at the root of the problem, despite handwringing over the number of threes they have been taking. The Celtics are at their best when the offense is creating open shots and triples are flying freely.

Rather, the biggest issue Monday felt like stagnation. When Boston went into its second and third lineups on Monday, the offense deflated like a balloon. As noted by Adam Himmelsbach, the Celtics were outscored 72-47 at one point after taking an early 18-point lead, which can't all be attributed to Murray's heroics and an abundance of shots from deep.

"Just keep going," Jaylen Brown said. "That's what it takes to win. This our league, and you have to maintain (a lead), and keep it up if we can. Start wavering once we get a big lead -- we have to hit them in the mouth. Let our foot off the gas, and we lose."

Celtics fans are probably sick of hearing this, but there's still no reason to hit the panic button yet. The Celtics don't look particularly inspiring, but the season is 10 games old, and they could easily be 8-2 even with a fairly difficult schedule. There are plenty of reason to believe the haggard offense will shed a lot of its ugliness as players continue to grow together.

But none of that is meant to say that everything is fine -- the Celtics have plenty of issues, and while they still seem correctable, the consecutive losses have illuminated them. The only difference is that instead of patching over the losses with an 8-2 record and a seven-game winning streak, the flaws are out in the open.


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