Nobody said this road trip would be easy. With the altitude, the second half of a back-to-back and a rested and energized Nuggets team awaiting them, the C’s dug themselves an early hole in the first half last night, and were unable to dig themselves out of it completely.
The main culprit of the damage was rookie rebounding phenom Kenneth Faried. His 16 boards (8 offensive) combined with a perfect shooting night from the line and the field (18 points overall) set the tone from the onset. A 46-27 overall rebounding advantage for the Nuggets, combined with a 31-17 edge in free throw attempts tell most of the story here, as the C’s trailed by as many as 17.
Incredibly, the C’s still had a strong pulse in the fourth quarter of this one, with a 10-0 run to cut the Denver lead to two, giving them multiple chances to take the lead down the stretch. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this run was the fact that Marquis Daniels was on the floor during it (and the entire fourth quarter push) as Quisy played his most minutes (20) since late January and looked good doing it. For a team short on bodies, it was a nice change to see the veteran step up.
Unfortunately, late-game heroics were not on the horizon, with Paul Pierce (22 points) fouling out with just under four minutes remaining. With Brandon Bass and Ray Allen having cold shooting nights, the offense dried up (beyond some KG free throw attempts) in the last couple minutes, leaving Boston unable to get over the hump to drop to 2-3 on this trip.
Now there’s good news and bad news here. The C’s obviously can’t be thrilled with a 2-3 trip out west, but given the bodies they have, they can’t be too disappointed about it either. They left one out in LA, but now the worst part of the trip is over and the important games against Eastern Conference opponents are set to begin.
Atlanta is just two games in front of Boston for the six seed, Milwaukee a mere three games back, charging with authority now with a five-game winning streak, and Philly continues to struggle as well, leaving Boston just 1 1/2 back of the division leaders even after their recent slide.
My point is, if there was a time for Boston to struggle on this road trip, it was out west where the games don’t mean as much. Now these contests matter twice as much in the Eastern Conference standing, where Boston could conceivably finish anywhere from fourth to out of the playoffs at this juncture. Things are just starting to heat up and the sooner Danny gets any potential buyout reinforcements in the door, the better.