Thomas helps Celtics beat Nuggets 121-101
DENVER >> No big deal for Isaiah Thomas. Just doing his job, he said.
The All-Star guard had 22 points and 12 assists, leading the Boston Celtics to a 121-101 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
"They were kind of doubling me, keeping two guys on me until I gave the ball up," Thomas said. "My job is to make the right play, read the defense, and the guys were knocking down shots."
Boston coach Brad Stevens said Thomas had just the right mix between passing the ball off and taking his shots when they presented themselves.
"He was good. He made the right play most of the time, especially in the first half when he had 10 assists," Stevens said.
Avery Bradley added 20 points for the Celtics, who beat the Nuggets for a fourth time in a row. Evan Turner scored 17 points, and Jared Sullinger had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Denver had 24 turnovers in its third loss in four games. It also was outrebounded 48-36 and yielded 24 fast-break points and 60 in the paint.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone criticized his team for allowing Thomas and Bradley to "live in the paint." And he minced no words over what he saw as the Nuggets' lack of hustle in two games since returning from the All-Star break.
"Our defense is still somewhere in the Caribbean," Malone said. "It was a lot more than just a lack of energy. It was a lack of fight, a lack of togetherness. ... I thought we were a very selfish team, two things that I hate to see from any team, so hopefully we can find a way to straighten that out in the very near future."
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and fellow rookie Emmanuel Mudiay added 18 points.
Denver trailed by 15 at halftime, but it opened the third with a 13-3 run to close to 67-62 with 8:51 left in the quarter. The rally fizzled when the Celtics turned up their transition game, highlighted by a breakaway dunk by Jae Crowder following a Nuggets turnover that put Boston up by 12.
The Celtics carried a 13-point lead into the final period and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
"We played our butts off," Sullinger said. "Five guys connected. We got the rust off and are looking to move forward."
Leaning on its perimeter shooting, Boston led by as many as 26 points in the first half, when it went 8 for 17 from 3-point range.
NUGGETS TAKING STOCK
Jokic, Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic each had four turnovers. Denver trailed 35-17 after one, and the Nuggets also were outscored 30-23 in the final period.
"All I know is we all individually just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and just figure it out," Mudiay said.
Celtics: F Kelly Olynyk remained sidelined for a second straight game because of a right shoulder sprain suffered Feb. 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Sullinger had his team-leading 16th double-double of the season.
Nuggets: G Jameer Nelson missed an eighth consecutive game with a sprained left wrist. ... G D.J Augustin had 13 points in his first game in Denver since being acquired last week as part of the deal that sent Randy Foye to Oklahoma City. ... F Kenneth Faried had no points and one rebound in just over 13 minutes of play and was held out of the game after telling his coach he felt ill.
Celtics: Visit Minnesota on Monday night.
Nuggets: Host Sacramento on Tuesday night.
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