A valiant fourth quarter effort came up short for the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, as they fell 98-91 to the Denver Nuggets in the fifth leg of their eight game road swing.
The Celtics climbed within three points late in the fourth quarter, but ultimately couldn't overcome the 15 point hole they dug themselves into in the first half.
Rajon Rondo led the way for the Celtics, finishing with 12 points and 16 assists. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each chipped in 22 points, but Pierce fouled out early in the fourth quarter. His absence was felt down the stretch, as the Celtics failed on opportunities to narrow the lead to a single point in the game's closing minutes.
The Nuggets got a career night from rookie forward Kenneth Faried, who finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. He relentlessly controlled the glass, and the Nuggets overwhelmed the Celtics in the rebounding department, grabbing 46 to Boston's 27. Rebounding has haunted the Celtics throughout the season, and they've been outrebounded by 120 in 10 March games.
The Celtics will continue their road trip on Monday at Atlanta, when they'll take on one of the Eastern Conference teams within striking distance in the standings. The Hawks (25-19), currently stand two and a half games ahead of the Celtics.
Boston also fell short on an opportunity to narrow the gap between themselves and Philadelphia - the leaders in the Atlantic Division - to just one half of a game. They remain a game and half back now, and the two teams will square off in Philadelphia on Friday night.
Rajon Rondo has four points and 10 assists already for Boston, but the Celtics have had no answer for Denver on the glass, being outrebounded 28-12 through 24 minutes. Rebounding has plagued Boston throughout the season, and the team has been hampered by the loss of Chris Wilcox, who the team recently discoverd would need season-ending heart surgery.
Danilo Gallinari, the centerpiece of the package the Nuggets received for Carmelo Anthony last season, has paced his team with 15 first half points. Kenneth Faried, who the Nuggets plucked in the first round of last year's draft, has already collected 11 rebounds.
Tonight marks the fifth game of the Celtics current eight game road trip.
McGee, who is in his fourth year in the NBA, is averaging 11.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game this season. He struggled in Washington with maturity issues, but the trade that sent him to Denver was one that few anticipated. In shipping off Nene, the Nuggets were able to free up the necessary cap space to offer Winston Chandler - a restricted free agent who played in China during the lockout - a long term contract.
Friday's blowout loss to the Kings now behind them, the Boston Celtics (23-20) look to get back to their winning ways against the Denver Nuggets (24-20) at 9:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO (CSN/WEEI).