Nuggets hold off Celtics in potential NBA Finals preview

If Thursday was an NBA Finals preview, the Denver Nuggets are looking pretty good.

Nikola Jokic led Denver to a 115-109 win over the Boston Celtics in a marquee matchup between the NBA's defending champions and the owners of the league's top record, sweeping the season series in the process.

It was a usual night at the office for Jokic, with 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and one turnover. The MVP candidate appeared to be dealing with an elbow injury for some of the game, but was still orchestrating a strong night on offense against the NBA's No. 2 team in defensive efficiency.

Nikola Jokic headshot
Nikola Jokic
C - DEN - #15
2023 - 2024 season

The Celtics led for much of the first quarter, until a quick 9-2 run at the end gave the Nuggets a lead they never gave back. Boston came close, though. The Celtics tied the game at points in the third quarter and shortened a double-digit lead to just two points in the final two minutes of the game.

Jokic and Gordon responded by doing this with 20 seconds left:

Somehow, that wasn't even the wildest dunk of the game. Or the second-wildest.

There was this nearly derailed dunk in transition by Peyton Watson:

And then Gordon provided a reminder he probably should have won a Dunk Contest or two.

Jaylen Brown would have been the hero on the Celtics' side, with 42 points on 16-of-27 shooting with 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals. It wasn't enough to offset Jayson Tatum scoring only 14 points. Boston also finished 11-of-37 from 3-point range.

The win moves the 43-20 Nuggets only a game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the top seed in the West, with the Oklahoma City Thunder in between them at a half-game back of first.