Unlikely Nugget an X-factor off the bench in big win over Celtics

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets / Brendall O'Banon/Clarkson Creative/GettyImages

The Nuggets got a huge win Thursday night over the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics in Ball Arena, 115-109. They were led, as usual, by their MVP and the league’s best player, Nikola Jokic who recorded a 30-point triple-double.

But the team also got some great minutes off the bench from second-year forward, Peyton Watson. The Nuggets have brought Watson along slowly, but they showed faith in him when they let Bruce Brown and Jeff Green walk in free agency without bringing in replacements.

They had another opportunity to upgrade their bench at the trade deadline and instead sat by idly - another vote of confidence for Watson. His stats haven’t exactly jumped off the page, but he’s been doing all the right things and waiting for his opportunity.

Spark plug off the bench

Thursday night was a huge step in the right direction for Watson and the Nuggets, as he looked like one of their best players. He provided a great defensive spark and impacted the game with hustle and energy on both ends.

After winning the title last year, the Nuggets don’t have much to prove and haven’t shown many weaknesses. But one of their only question marks coming into the season was the bench and how they would replace the loss of the aforementioned veteran role players.

Watson’s performance against the Celtics was exactly what the Nuggets needed, and was a possible sign of things to come in the playoffs. He played 17 minutes and scored 11 points on 5/9 shooting. He hit a timely 3 and also added 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. He also was a team-high +11 during his minutes.

But the defensive activity and athleticism is a game-changer, and something they can’t really get from anyone else. He was able to stay with the quick guards and the long wings of the Celtics and showed off his abilities with an incredible blocked shot where he almost jumped right over Jokic.

Peyton Watson's role

The Nuggets don’t need a lot of scoring off their bench, but they do need a defensive player who can impact the game, provide a spark plug, and hit open threes. If last night was a playoff audition, Watson passed with flying colors. 

If Mike Malone can rely on Watson during the playoffs that will be a huge boon for the team as they look to defend their title. And if this game was any indication, Watson may even steal some closing minutes from Michael Porter Jr. if he’s not impacting the game with his shooting. 

Watson can fill a role that is ideal next to Jokic and Jamal Murray. If this is a glimpse of what he can provide, it’ll help the Nuggets, not just this season, but for years to come as they look to build a dynasty.