By Kyle High Tower
AP Sports Editor
BOSTON — Jayson Tatum had 24 points, Marcus Smart added 22 points, five steals and two crucial free throws, and the Celtics held on to beat the Denver Nuggets 108-102 on Friday night for Boston’s seventh straight win.
Robert Williams added 15 points and 16 rebounds to help Boston extend its longest winning streak of the season. Derrick White had 15 points, six rebounds and two assists in his Celtics debut after being acquired from San Antonio in a trade deal.
Boston ruined another big night for Nikola Jokic, who had his 71st career triple-double with 23 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Aaron Gordon finished with 17 points.
Denver led by no less than 11 points in the first quarter and held a nine-point lead at halftime. But the Celtics outscored the Nuggets 57-42 in the final 24 minutes.
The Celtics closed the gap in the third, completing a 15-2 run with a layup from Smart to put them ahead 69-65. But the Nuggets closed the period on a 14-7 streak and took a 79-76 lead in the fourth.
Boston snapped a crazy streak that started defensively with a Williams block with an alley-oop to him on the other end to put the Celtics ahead 91-90 with just over seven minutes left.
A technical foul in an ensuing timeout on JaMychal Green pushed the lead to 92-90 on a Tatum free throw. Denver tied it at 95 on a 3 from Jokic and pushed ahead on a free throw from Will Barton.
But Boston regained the lead on another Williams dunk and a Brown free throw that made it 98-86. Jokic came to the foul line but converted on just one of his attempts, and White then broke free below and went down in a lay-up.
Barton missed a 3 with just over a minute left. Smart was fouled on the other end and had two free throws to push the lead to 102-97 with 55.1 seconds left.
White made his presence felt almost instantly with his new team. He checked in at 4:35 of the first quarter and less than a minute later he recovered a deflection from Smart, led a counterattack and threw a pass to Brown for an easy lay-up .
When he wasn’t scoring, he always seemed to find his way to the ball, whether it was a miss or just keeping the ball alive in the half-court.
Nuggets: Jokic has eight triple-doubles in his last 14 games and is just seven triple-doubles behind Wilt Chamberlain (78) for fifth on the NBA’s all-time list. … Held a 60-51 halftime lead. … Led by no less than 11 in the first quarter, getting eight points from Gordon and seven from Jokic.
Celtics: Smart had three interceptions in the first quarter before going to four in the first half. …Boston had 54 points in the paint.
Nuggets: In Toronto on Saturday.
Celtics: hosts Atlanta on Super Bowl Sunday morning.