The Denver Nuggets successfully slowed down James Harden and will now to look to trip up the visiting Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Denver is looking for its eighth win in nine games and has been riding its sturdy defense.
The Nuggets are 7-0 when holding teams under 100 after producing a 105-95 home win over Houston on Wednesday. Denver became the first team to hold the Rockets under 100 this season, and it limited Harden to 27 to drop his league-leading average to 38.4.
Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic had 27 points and 12 rebounds and was amused that the postgame chatter revolved around “stopping” Harden.
“That’s crazy when a guy scores 27 and it’s bad,” Jokic said. “We know he’s going to score. He’s going to be aggressive. Just make it harder and try to be there. … Just to give them different looks.”
Denver will attempt to keep the defensive intensity high when Boston takes the floor.
The Celtics have lost two of their last three games following a 10-game winning streak. Boston took a 107-104 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
The Celtics held a seven-point lead late in regulation, let it slip away and then got outplayed in the extra session.
“We believe, truly, that we can compete with anybody in this league,” point guard Marcus Smart said afterward. “But it’s going to take every possession. We can’t take it for granted. We got to take every possession like it’s our last possession, and we got to really protect the ball and things like that. We really need to come up with shots that we want and execute the way that we want.”
Forward Jayson Tatum and guard Kemba Walker each missed 3-pointers in the final seconds of OT, with Clippers star Kawhi Leonard fiercely swatting aside Walker’s shot from the left corner just before time expired.
“He got enough separation to get it off against most of the league,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “The problem is, that guy’s not normal. He’s not most of the league, and he made a great play to block it.”
The final sequence capped off a tough night for Walker, who was just 4-of-17 shooting while scoring 13 points.
“It was definitely a rough shooting night for me,” Walker said. “I just thought I made a lot of bad decisions tonight. But I just got to be better. … As an individual, I definitely would have loved to be better for my teammates.”
Walker had plenty of company when it came to clanking outside shots. Boston missed its first 16 3-point attempts and finished 12 of 45 from long range.
A repeat performance wouldn’t be a good plan for beating the Nuggets, who rank third in the NBA in scoring defense (102.3) and fifth in defending 3-pointers (32 percent) entering Thursday’s play.
“When we’re locked in defensively, we’re a really good team,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said.
Denver coach Michael Malone is pleased to see his message being received.
“This is only one game, we still have much work to do, but they understand when we defend like this, we can beat anybody in the NBA,” Malone said.
In addition to the defensive prowess, Denver has scored 100 or more points in 12 of its 13 games.
Point guard Jamal Murray will receive plenty of attention from Boston defenders despite having just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting against Houston.
The last time these teams met in Denver, Murray exploded for a career-best 48 points in a 115-107 win on Nov. 5, 2018.
The Nuggets won both of last season’s meetings.
–Field Level Media