January 23, 2015

Slow and sluggish coming out of the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics turned in their worst offensive performance in six weeks.

The Celtics go for a bounce-back effort Sunday when they try to beat the Denver Nuggets for a fourth straight time.

Boston (32-24) entered the break averaging 113.1 points during a 10-2 run, becoming a factor in the Atlantic Division race. The Celtics are 4 1/2 games back of first-place Toronto but failed to close that gap in falling 111-93 at Utah on Friday.

With their momentum failing to carry through the layoff, they shot 37.0 percent and went 7 for 25 from beyond the arc. It was Boston's worst effort since shooting 35.7 percent and missing 20 of 25 from long range in a 101-92 loss at Chicago on Jan. 7.

The Celtics allowed the Jazz to shoot 54.4 percent, marking the third straight game a Boston opponent has hit more than half its shots.

"We can't make excuses, everyone had a layoff," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We were just slow to everything offensively, and defensively we just weren't there. Every time we play like that we end up losing and somehow we have to change that."

Thomas was the club's lone All-Star last week and leads the team with career highs of 21.6 points and 6.6 assists per game. He had 25 points Friday but shot just 7 of 19 after going 12 for 21 with 36 points and 11 assists in a 139-134 overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the break Feb. 10.

Avery Bradley had averaged 20.3 points over the prior three games before being limited to 12 against the Jazz. A matchup with Denver should be just what he needs since he's scored 20.7 per game while shooting 54.3 percent shooting, including 10 of 20 from 3-point range, during Boston's three-game winning streak in the series.

Bradley scored 27 in a 111-103 home victory against the Nuggets on Jan. 27.

Denver (22-33) dropped its first game following the break with a 116-110 loss at Sacramento on Friday. The Nuggets surrendered 70 points in the first half, four shy of their season high set in a loss to NBA-leading Golden State on Nov. 6.

"We are not good enough to defend for two quarters. It has to be for 48 minutes. We did not do that (Friday) and that's disappointing," coach Mike Malone said.

Danilo Gallinari is averaging 23.7 points over the past six games after scoring 27 against the Kings. The forward, whose career-high 19.9 points per game lead the Nuggets, scored 23 at Boston last month.

Will Barton also scored 23 after totaling seven in his previous four matchups. The guard is averaging 19.0 points over the past three home games.

Joffrey Lauvergne is trying to improve upon his career-high 22 points Friday. The center was five shy of matching his total from the six prior games following a three-game absence due to a right toe infection. That stretch included sitting out the visit to Boston.

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