DENVER, CO – Jamal Murray's strong finish helped the Denver Nuggets work their way through a stretch of ragged play. His thoughts after the game turned to an injured opponent.
Murray scored 22 points, including two clutch free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining, and the Nuggets hung on to beat the Celtics 96-92 on Friday night in a game overshadowed by a head injury to Boston guard Kemba Walker.
"That's not something you want to mess around with," Murray said. "Prayers out to him and hopefully he's fine."
Nikola Jokic added 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nuggets, who improved to 8-0 this season when holding an opponent to fewer than 100 points.
Jaylen Brown had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Celtics. Jayson Tatum added 16 points and Marcus Smart had 15.
Walker collided with teammate Semi Ojeleye late in the second quarter, striking Ojeleye's abdomen area head-first and going down on to the court in a heap.
Walker grimaced in pain as he went down and play was stopped as medical personnel from both teams tended to the star guard who was prone on the floor for several minutes. His teammates gathered round as did Nuggets players, plainly concerned about Walker. A brace was placed around his neck to stabilize the area and he was strapped to a backboard before being placed onto a gurney and wheeled off the court in front of a hushed crowd.
"I saw him in the ambulance at halftime," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "He had his wherewithal about him. He was in decent spirits, which is good."
In a tweet, the Celtics said Walker has been diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms and was transported to a hospital for further evaluation.
Walker, the Celtics' leading scorer, had three assists and a pair of steals before leaving the game.
"Our prayers and our energy are with him," Brown said. "He's probably the smallest dude on the floor every time he steps out, but he's probably got the biggest heart. We definitely lean on him and we'll welcome him back when he rests up and everything is taken care of."
Earlier this month, the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to a fractured left hand. He suffered the injury when he collided with LaMarcus Aldridge in a Nov. 9 game against San Antonio.
The Celtics, down by 19 in the third quarter and 13 to start the fourth, went on a 10-1 run capped by Brad Wanamaker's driving layup to pull to 75-73 with 5:35 left to play.
Brown connected on a 3-pointer from the corner, pulling the Celtics to 84-83 with 2:18 remaining. Murray made a pair of free throws and hit a jumper around a Boston turnover as the Nuggets went in front 88-83. Boston added a basket but Paul Millsap connected on a 3-pointer, helping fend off the Celtics in the waning seconds.
The Nuggets took their 70-57 lead into the fourth with Michael Porter Jr. punctuating the advantage by soaring above the rim to rebound a missed shot and slam it through the net in the final moments of the third.
Denver led by 17 in the first half before the Celtics put together an 11-0 run in the second quarter, pulling to 45-34 at the half.
Celtics: Hayward is making progress in his recovery from the broken left hand he suffered during a Nov. 9 game against San Antonio. Coach Brad Stevens said that Hayward visited with doctors earlier Friday and he has begun taking some shots on the court. Barring any setbacks along the way, Hayward could be back on the court before the end of this year.
Jokic has had three triple-doubles this season and 31 in his career.
"Every night he's a triple-double candidate," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "His scoring, his rebounding, his playmaking, he's always making the right play."
Celtics: Host Sacramento on Monday night.
Nuggets: Continue a four-game homestand Sunday against Phoenix.