Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Celtics Lose, Face Lakers

Last night the Boston Celtics kicked off their five game road trip by losing to the Denver Nuggets, 97-90.

The shorthanded C's played pretty well in their first game post All-Star Weekend, but fell apart in the final five minutes as the Nuggets went on a 13-6 run to close out the game. Ten of Denver's crunch time points were supplied by Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, the duo that inflicted most of the damage on the Celtics defense. Each player scored 26 points (no other Nugget had more than 11) and racked up double-digit free throw attempts. They picked up the slack for Andre Iguodala, who bricked all seven of his field goal attempts and looked rusty in his return from a neck strain. Lawson failed to commit a single turnover despite using more than a fifth of his team's possessions. The Nuggets were particularly careful with the ball, turning the ball over just seven times to one of the NBA's best defensive units.

Though the undersized Celtics held their own on the boards (Denver is a so-so rebounding team despite Kenneth Faried averaging nearly ten boards per game), they gave away too many free points at the charity stripe. Celtic defenders were called for 24 fouls, allowing Denver to pile up 36 free throw attempts to Boston's 16. That disparity ended up being the difference last night.

Then again, the Celtics probably would have prevailed if either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett had done much on offense, but they combined for just 22 points on the evening. Pierce in particular struggled mightily with his shot, missing 12 of 14 field goal attempts before fouling out with ten seconds left in the game. Jason Terry (seven points) and Brandon Bass (six) were also non-factors. Jeff Green rose to the occasion and continued his strong play of late by dropping 20 points 8-of-12 shooting, though he failed to do much else (two rebounds, two assists) in his 33 minutes of action. Nevertheless, Green is making the most of his increased workload and finally looks comfortable in Boston.

The Green hope to rally tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, who haven't played in nearly a week. Boston crushed LA in their most recent meeting two Thursdays ago 116-95, which means Kobe Bryant will do everything in his power to avenge that humiliating defeat. With the Celtics playing the back-end of a back-to-back, pitted against the fully rested Lakers, expect Bryant and company to play better this time around.

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