The Denver Nuggets' valiant rally efforts fell short as the Boston Celtics closed out the fourth quarter to beat the visitors, 106-98. Denver trailed by as much as 27 and cut the lead to three in the third quarter but was never able to get over the hump against the scrappy Celtics.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets' comeback efforts but tweaked his hamstring early in the fourth quarter and didn't return to the game. He finished with 20 points. Denver's offense was unable to maintain its pace in his absence.
The Celtics shot 17-of-26 from the field -- led by 13 points from Avery Bradley -- to take a 39-15 lead in the first quarter. In those first 12 minutes, the Nuggets shot 23.8 percent from the field and turned the ball over five times.
Eleven points from Lawson led to Denver winning the second quarter by four points, but it wasn't nearly enough to make a dent in Boston's lead. Lawson finished the first half with 13 points and four assists while four Celtics -- Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Crawford -- scored in double-digits.
That balanced scoring gave Boston a 64-44 lead at the end of the half.
Momentum, however, began to shift in the third quarter as the Nuggets pounded the glass and, quite simply began making shots. At one point, Denver cut the lead to three points but the Celtics answered late and took a 10-point lead, 87-77, heading into the final period.
Lawson tweaked his hamstring early in the fourth quarter and didn't return to the game. The Nuggets, in turn, were unable to mount any sort of significant comeback without the engineer of their offense.
Boston (9-12) has won five of its last seven games and sits atop the Atlantic Division. Denver (11-8) has lost back-to-back games after winning seven straight.