The Boston Celtics started the year fast before losing three of four games, but the Eastern Conference champs appear to have figured out some things.
Boston has won four straight after Wednesday’s night win over Detroit and goes for its fifth in a row against the visiting Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
The Celtics got their usual production from Jayson Tatum (31 points) and Jaylen Brown (30) but got a boost from the bench with Sam Hauser’s career-best 24 points. It is the second time in three games Hauser has contributed big off the pine — he had 17 points at New York on Saturday night — and is proving to be a reliable reserve.
He was 9-for-15 from the field and hit half of his 12 attempts from behind the arc against the Pistons. Hauser, undrafted out of Virginia in 2021, is shooting 53.3 percent from 3-point range this season.
“Little by little I’m earning more trust from (Boston interim coach) Joe (Mazzulla),” Hauser said. “I’ve still got to keep doing things to earn minutes out there and earning a spot in the rotation.”
Not everything went well in the win over the Pistons. Malcolm Brogdon didn’t play in the second half due to right hamstring tightness, and his status for the game against Denver has not been updated.
Brogdon has dealt with injuries throughout his career but has been important as a backup to point guard Marcus Smart this season. He is averaging 13.7 points and 3.5 assists and has played in every game so far, coming off the bench in each one.
Boston is facing a Nuggets team that is also surging. Denver has won four in a row and six of its last seven, including the first two contests of a four-game road trip. A 122-119 win at Indiana on Wednesday night came with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble.
The Nuggets trailed by 18 points in the third quarter and last season that would have likely cost them the game. But this roster has been bolstered with the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. and the additions of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown.
Murray has begun to play like he did before suffering an ACL tear in his left knee and missing all of last season. He is averaging 18.5 points a game in November, up nearly five points from October, and there have been stretches of games where he takes over.
He did Wednesday when Denver was rallying.
Jokic managed to score 24 points, 11 in the final nine minutes after sitting for almost the entire second half when he picked up his fifth foul a minute into the third quarter.
His team came to his defense on some of the fouls called on him.
“We know we’re going to be playing against, for us, eight guys out there, including the refs,” Caldwell-Pope told The Denver Post. “We know we’ve got to come in and just play our basketball and not worry about the refs and the foul calls.”
–Field Level Media