Boston Celtics

Celtics-Nuggets takeaways: Jaylen's 41 not enough vs. reigning champs

The C's have lost back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 6-8.

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Three Key Storylines

  • Free throws and turnovers sink C's
  • A monster game from Jaylen Brown
  • Jrue Holiday nearly plays the hero

For the second time this season, the Boston Celtics fell just short against defending champion Denver Nuggets.

Thursday's potential NBA Finals preview marked another entertaining matchup between the two powerhouses. It was tightly contested for most of the night and came down to the wire, but the Nuggets went on to sweep the season series with a 115-109 win in front of their home crowd.

The Celtics' second consecutive defeat brings them to 48-14 on the season. Previously, they hadn't lost back-to-back games since Nov. 6-8.

Jaylen Brown carried the offensive load for Boston with 41 points. Kristaps Porzingis notched 24 points and 12 rebounds while Jayson Tatum chipped in 15 on an off night for the five-time All-Star.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was his usual dominant self for Denver with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists for his 20th triple-double of the season. Jamal Murray added 19 points, eight assists, and six boards.

Boston's road trip continues Saturday when the team takes on the Phoenix Suns (36-26) at 8:30 p.m. ET. First, here are three takeaways from Thursday's game.

Free throws and turnovers sink Celtics

If you play sloppy against the reigning champs, they'll make you pay. The Celtics witnessed that firsthand Thursday night at Ball Arena.

Poor passing was a theme in Boston's loss. The Nuggets took advantage of the lackluster ball movement on several occasions as the C's turned the ball over 12 times. Denver racked up 16 points off turnovers and 19 fastbreak points. Tatum was the primary culprit for the Celtics with five of the team's 12 TOs.

Boston also struggled mightily from the free-throw line. The team was just 16-of-25 while Denver went a near-perfect 21-for-22 from the charity stripe.

Brown missed seven of his 14 free-throw attempts. That was the difference in the Nuggets' six-point victory.

Jaylen Brown carries C's offensively

The Celtics almost didn't have their three-time All-Star in the lineup for Thursday's game. Brown was a game-time decision due to a sacroiliac strain and opted to tough out the injury.

Without him, Boston may have been blown out. Brown was brilliant other than his free-throw struggles, erupting for 22 points (15 in second quarter) and eight rebounds in the first half. He had just 13 points in the C's loss to the Nuggets on Jan. 19.

His six offensive rebounds on the night -- all in the first half -- set a new career high. He also became the first Celtic on record to log at least 22 points and six offensive boards in a half, according to's Taylor Snow.

Brown kept his foot on the gas in the second half, finishing with a game-high and a season-high 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting. He ended up with 14 boards, four assists, and two steals in the losing effort.

It was an outstanding all-around performance for Brown on a night when the Celtics' offense wasn't its typical dominant self. The free-throw woes will haunt him, but he's the only reason Boston was even in this game until the end.

Brown's 14 free-throw attempts marked his second most in a game in his career.

Jrue Holiday nearly plays the hero

The Celtics nearly erased a double-digit deficit late in the fourth quarter with help from Jrue Holiday. The veteran guard notched 10 of his 12 points in the final frame.

Boston cut Denver's lead to three after Holiday capped a 12-4 run with a clutch 3-pointer. The Nuggets scored on the other end, but Holiday kept the C's alive with another 3 to bring his team within two.

You can watch the sequence here.

Had the Celtics escaped with a victory, Holiday would have been the hero alongside Brown. Unfortunately for Boston, Tatum missed what would have been the go-ahead 3 with 40 seconds left and Denver held on.

Other than Holiday's clutch shots, it was an uncharacteristically bad night for the C's from 3. They're now 5-10 this season when they shoot below 32 percent from beyond the arc (28.9 percent). They're 43-4 when they're above 32 percent.

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