DENVER — Nikola Jokic recorded his 20th triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets withstood a furious fourth-quarter surge by Boston to beat the Celtics 115-109 on Thursday night and sweep their season series with the Eastern Conference leaders.

Jokic had 32 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, several of them on alley-oops to Aaron Gordon, and Jamal Murray added 19 points and eight assists.

Jaylen Brown scored a season-high 41 points and had 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who hadn’t lost consecutive games since early November. But Brown came up short on a dunk attempt that had him stretching his back during the subsequent timeout, and he was just 7 of 14 from the foul line.

Boston missed nine free throws overall, while the Nuggets missed just one of 22 foul shots.

Kristaps Porzingis had 24 points and 12 rebounds for Boston.

Murray’s layup gave Denver a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics fought back and had the chance to take the lead on Jayson Tatum’s 3-point try with 40 seconds left.


It rimmed out, leaving the Nuggets ahead 111-109. Jokic’s alley-oop pass to Gordon sealed it, and Kantavious Caldwell-Pope finished things off with two free throws.

Both teams were coming off losses that ended long winning streaks. The Celtics’ 105-104 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday snapped an 11-game streak, and Denver’s 117-107 overtime loss to Phoenix halted the Nuggets’ six-game surge.

If these teams are barreling toward a collision in the NBA Finals in June, this was a tantalizing preview. Both coaches viewed the showdown as something of a measuring stick heading into the home stretch.

Noting Boston’s NBA-best record, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the Celtics have been the best team in the league all year and called the nationally televised showdown “another opportunity for us to find out who we are.”

The Nuggets, who handed the Celtics their first loss at home with a 102-100 thriller on Jan. 19, are simply the NBA’s benchmark, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla suggested.

Reigning champs. Superstars in Jokic and Murray. Solid supporting cast. Enough said.


“I don’t necessarily use them as a barometer to see where we’re at, but I do think they’re an example of what a great team is in the NBA,” Mazzulla said. “And so we have respect for them.”

The game was everything expected of two prime contenders.

Brown scored 15 second-quarter points on his way to 22 by halftime and the Nuggets countered by converting all 14 of their free throws, including eight from Jokic.

Denver’s dynamic duo each had buzzer-beaters, too, with Murray sinking a 30-footer to end the first quarter and Jokic banking a 12-foot shot with Porzingis in his face that gave Denver a 62-54 advantage at the break.

Boston quickly erased that deficit with a pair of 3s from Porzingis and a layup from Brown to start the third quarter.


Celtics: Visit Phoenix on Saturday night.

Nuggets: Host Utah on Saturday night.

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