Tatum scores 34 points as Celtics beat Nuggets for 5th straight win

Grant Williams dubbed himself “Batman” after helping the Boston Celtics neutralize Nuggets star Nikola “Joker” Jokic during a win in Denver late last season.

The Celtics relied on their offense to keep the reigning back-to-back MVP from retaliating. Jayson Tatum had 34 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Boston extended its best winning streak of the season to five games by beating Denver 131-112 on Friday night.

It was Tatum’s third straight game with at least 30 points and seventh time with 30+ points this season. Boston had just seven turnovers and shot 57% from the field with 16 3-pointers. Jaylen Brown had 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

“It’s just a lot of fun going offensively right now,” said Al Horford, who had six three-pointers and had 21 points and seven rebounds. “The lads are really aware of what the coach wants and what he expects. He wants a good distance and we’re doing a good job to get those positions.

“It’s fun to see when it comes together like that.”

Caretaker coach Joe Mazzulla said he likes the trust on the pitch he sees between his players.

“Our guys are looking to make each other better whether they have the ball or not,” Mazzulla said.

The loss ended the Nuggets’ four-game winning streak.

Jokic had 29 points and eight rebounds but struggled with early foul problems. Aaron Gordon added 17 points and eight rebounds.

The Nuggets stayed close despite being understaffed on the bench after Bones Hyland was placed on health and safety protocols ahead of the tip. Bruce Brown was the most productive, playing 37 minutes and finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics
Collin Gillespie #21 of the Denver Nuggets drives past Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter at TD Garden on November 11, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTICE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, the user agrees to the terms of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

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Denver was down 77-70 when Jokic went on the bench after his fourth foul with about seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Nuggets continued to play without him, eventually reducing the 18-point deficit to 87-85 in the first half.

Jokic returned early in the fourth, but that didn’t stop Boston from extending their lead to 111-95.

Things got a little dicey in the final minutes.

Gordon was called for a Flagrant 1 foul after scoring in a dunk and was believed to have committed a hostile act by running over Williams.

It did little to stifle the Celtics’ momentum.

Boston then went on an 11-3 run and extended their lead to 127-109.

TIP INS

Nuggets: Coach Mike Malone won a tackle on Jokic originally called an offensive foul, 9:37 in the game. It was changed to a blocking foul on Boston’s Marcus Smart. It would have been Jokic’s fifth foul. … Ish Smith (Wade) sat for the fifth straight game. … finished the first half with a 17:6 run.

Celtics: Boston led 102-93 in the fourth when Michael Porter Jr. was called out for a flagrant foul after stepping into Tatum’s landing area on a 3-point try. Tatum landed on Porter’s foot and grabbed his left ankle but was able to stay in the game. … Malcolm Brogdon sat out and is tight with a real Achilles tendon day in and day out. … went into half time with 66:57. …lead 33-25 by the end of the first, shooting 61% from the field with no turnovers.

KEEP DOING

Boston’s Payton Pritchard had the hustle and bustle of the game in the second quarter.

The Celtics missed straight shots on a single possession before the ball was boxed in by Denver’s DeAndre Jordan.

But just as he turned to shove the ball onto the court, Pritchard – who had rebounded two of Boston’s previous misses – snuck in from behind, ripped it away and dropped in a layup to end the wild streak . The effort sent the Celtics bench into a frenzy and prompted a Nuggets timeout.

NEXT

Nuggets: Sunday in Chicago.

Celtics: Saturday in Detroit.

KYLE HIGHTOWER AP sportswriter

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