Avery Bradley produced some clutch late-game shooting, while old friend Jameer Nelson missed a pull-up jumper in the final seconds as the Boston Celtics hung on for a 100-99 triumph over the Denver Nuggets Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
Nelson, who spent a few weeks with Boston in the aftermath of the Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas, nearly went revenge game on his last team. The veteran, drawing a spot start after Ty Lawson was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving early Friday morning, responded with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting with seven assists over 42 minutes of floor time.
Bradley finished with the spotlight on him. Not only did he hit a monster go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 to go, but Bradley added a 20-foot pull-up jumper with 25 seconds to play that helped Boston escape.
Bradley finished with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting and added six rebounds and an assist over 30 minutes. Brandon Bass added 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals over 35 minutes in his second consecutive start.
• Not making it easy on themselves: The Celtics missed 10 of their 27 free throw attempts, most of those misses coming in the second half, which made things a bit tighter than they might have liked. The Nuggets helped Boston out by connecting on just 19 of 26 freebies.
• Second-half rally: The Nuggets scored the final seven points of the first half to take a six-point lead into the intermission, then pushed their lead to 12 early in the third frame. Unfazed, Boston needed just four minutes to tie the game and set up a seesaw battle the rest of the way.
• Loose balls: The Celtics ran 11 deep, but even with Kelly Olynyk sent back to Boston for tests on his injured right ankle, Boston did not play either Shavlik Randolph or James Young. ... The Celtics shot 49.3 percent overall; the Nuggets were at 41.6 percent but had 17 offensive rebounds (and 23 second-chance points).
• What it means: The Celtics have now won two in a row to improve to 15-26 and move two games out of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Nuggets fall to 18-25. Boston gets a day to rest, but then Sunday brings a matchup with the league-leading Golden State Warriors, as the Celtics dive into another back-to-back set to finish off this four games in five nights.