Irving scores 27 points as Celtics hang on to beat Nuggets

Irving scores 27 points as Celtics hang on to beat Nuggets

Irving led the C's with 27 points in a 111-110 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night to close a hard road trip at 2-2.

Kyle Anderson and Pau Gasol added 18 points each for the Spurs, who have won four of their past five games, while Dejounte Murray pulled down 13 rebounds (10 on the defensive glass) and dished out 7 assists but did not score a point in the victory.

Since Boston's 114-103 win over Philadelphia in London on November 21, the Celtics have lost five of last seven games.

Kyrie scored 40.6 FanDuel points, compared to his average of 38.1 FanDuel points per game for the season. He's connected on 24 of his 35 shot attempts in the last two contests, including a 7-for-10 mark from 3-point range. Monday night was a step in the right direction, though, as Tatum scored 20 points for the first time since Christmas Day. I just saw (Jokic) closing out and I was like, 'I need to take advantage of this.' I was driving it and I was going to go finish strong, and at the last second, the guy came and helped.

"I feel like we're figuring out the faster we play, the better we are", Barton said. He scored 14 points on 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc, giving him eight straight games with double-digit points. The mistake Coach Malone made was in substituting Craig for Jokic, if he had it in his mind that he was going to push a Celtics miss, rather than call a timeout.

Irving led all scorers with 27 points (11-17 FG) and six assists.

Boston coach Brad Stevens said: "They put us in some tough spots and I thought our guys battled".

Jaylen Brown did not make a 3-pointer all night at the Pepsi Center - until the one that counted.

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Moments later, though, Al Horford fed Brown for the decisive 3. Nikola Jokic secured the rebound with 9.4 seconds to play and delivered the outlet pass to Murray, who drove into the lane and kicked the ball back out to Gary Harris.

Ginobili finished 3 for 6 on 3s while scoring 14 points, including six in 31 seconds in the first quarter.

Mason Plumlee had 16 points and eight rebounds before he left with a leg injury in the fourth.

The Celtics beat Denver for the second time this season, also prevailing 124-118 on December 13.

It was also interesting to watch LaMarcus Aldridge play an outstanding game down low. Denver next plays at San Antonio on Tuesday before hosting Oklahoma City on Thursday and defending champion Golden State on Saturday. As a team, the Celtics shot 47 percent from the field and a sizzling 17 of 36 from the three-point line but the Celtics would really have to work despite leading by as many as 20 points in the second quarter. Malone wanted to emphasize that Barton needs to make the right play, not the hero play.

The Nuggets climbed out of a 20-point first-half deficit to lead in the final period. After San Antonio guard Danny Green missed a 3-pointer, the Nuggets raced down the floor and furiously passed the ball three times to set up Will Barton for a 25-foot 3-pointer that rattled in and out of the rim.

What initially looked like a blowout snoozer suddenly turned in the third quarter when the Nuggets exploded against the Celtics' vaunted defense to outscore Boston 37-24.

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