Irving's 33 lifts Celtics past Nuggets 124-118
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
BOSTON (AP) The Celtics expected to have their hands full with a Nuggets team that has had no trouble putting the ball in the basket this season.
Boston countered by having its best shooting night of the season.
Kyrie Irving had 33 points and the Boston Celtics held on for a 124-118 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Irving added seven assists. It was his eighth game this season with 30 or more points. Jaylen Brown finished with 26 points and five rebounds. The Celtics improved to 13-2 at home this season.
"We had to be resilient practically the whole night, and kind of weather their storms," Irving said. "They kept coming and kept coming. We had to outscore them at some point."
The 124 points was a season-high for Boston. The Celtics shot a season-high 60 percent from the field.
There were eight ties and six lead changes, but Boston never surrendered the lead in the second half.
"That was the only way we were going to win tonight - the way we were guarding and rebounding," coach Brad Stevens said. "Our guys distributed it well. We did cut and space well. I thought we played with good purpose and authority on offense."
The Nuggets went on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 85 in the third quarter. Boston responded in the fourth, using a 9-0 run to open a 106-94 lead.
Denver's Nikola Jokic sat out his seventh straight game with a left ankle sprain.
Celtics forward Al Horford had the night off to rest a right knee bruise.
Nuggets: Will Barton sat out with a lower back bruise. ... Denver connected on their first seven field goal attempts.
Celtics: Shane Larkin had 14 points off the bench. ... Denver's 118 points was an opponent season-high. ... Boston has made 10 or more 3-pointers in 11 straight games. ... Marcus Morris sat out for the fourth time in five games rehabbing his left knee.
"We came out short-handed - back-to-back, but that's not an excuse - and had great energy. That's all you can ask. It's been a long road trip and now we can go back and defend home court." - Harris.
For now, Brown is done with his goggles.
He wore contacts Wednesday for the first time since accidentally scratching his cornea. He had been playing with protective goggles for three games.
But he said the two versions he'd been using both had issues. One pair was fogging up too easily. The other started to become a hindrance and fit too tightly on his face, obstructing his peripheral vision.
"It's just uncomfortable with them. So I decided I was better off without them," he said.
Doctors say he can wear his contacts for a few hours the next couple of days. The change even brought about a postgame joke from Stevens.
"We had some laughs in retrospect about that. `Retro-spec' about that," Stevens said. "I said `retro-spec'. I've been thinking about that all week."
Wednesday marked a milestone in Gordon Hayward's recovery process from his broken left ankle. He out of the walking booth he's been using since his surgery in October. He will continue to wear a protective brace. It's a promising step in is rehab, Stevens said, but he cautioned it's just the next one in an ongoing process.
"It's another box to check. There's a big difference in getting out of the boot and playing in an NBA game," Stevens said. "He's got a long way to go. But it's good that he has these things as goals. He keeps checking them off and he's working really diligently at it."
Nuggets: Host Pelicans on Friday.
Celtics: Play their fourth game in six days when they host the Jazz on Friday.
More NBA basketball: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
Updated December 13, 2017