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Celtics 114, Nuggets 76

Celtics make themselves at home

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 24, 2009
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DENVER - With a large contingent of the crowd chanting, "Let's go, Celtics," dejected Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony had seen enough and walked off the floor seconds before the final buzzer sounded. Considering how the Celtics dominated Denver from start to finish, it was easy see why he was in a hurry to leave.

The Celtics stayed hot after a strong start en route to a 114-76 victory over the Western Conference power Nuggets at the Pepsi Center last night. Boston (46-12) is now 3-1 on this five-game Western trip, with the finale tomorrow against the Los Angeles Clippers. The loss was the third straight for the Nuggets and tied their second-worst home setback in franchise history.

"I looked at Perk [Kendrick Perkins] and Paul [Pierce] and said, 'Is this a home game?' " said Rajon Rondo, who had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. "It is unusual to hear, 'Let's go, Celtics,' in an opponent's building."

Said coach Doc Rivers, "That's awesome. There are a lot of Celtics fans and we loved it, so that was nice. When you give them an opportunity to do that, it's always nice."

Celtics guard Ray Allen had a game-high 26 points and nailed six 3-pointers, while Pierce added 22 points and nailed four 3-pointers. Boston had four players with at least 14 points, nailed 14 3-pointers, limited Denver to 34.7 percent shooting from the field, had only 10 turnovers, and scored 19 points off 17 turnovers.

The Celtics also avenged a 94-85 home loss to Denver Nov. 14.

"We just wanted to play great defense, and that's what we did," Rivers said. "Our offense came off our defense. It was a point of emphasis before the game. At home, they were far more physical than us in Boston. So our point of emphasis was to come out and battle."

Said Rondo, "Doc gave us a great motivational speech. They bullied us last time. We only have 12 losses on the year, but the way we lost to Denver was unusual."

The Celtics are now 5-0 this season without Kevin Garnett, who missed his second straight game with a strained right knee. They also lost Allen to a tailbone injury early in the fourth quarter and Brian Scalabrine to a cervical strain in the first quarter. Allen and Scalabrine are expected to play against the Clippers.

"We don't have enough bodies to gamble with anyone's health right now," Rivers said. "We're running out of them."

In the first quarter, the Celtics went up by 14 before finishing the period with a 29-20 lead. Rondo had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in the quarter.

"We moved the ball early," Allen said. "Defensively, we made them uncomfortable. We executed early, got off to a good start. That was the key."

Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team was playing its third game in four nights, said, "They wanted to beat us and they wanted to embarrass us. They went at us pretty good."

Frustrated after the Celtics won five defensive charges, Denver All-Star Chauncey Billups (season-low 3 points, 1-of-8 shooting) was slapped with a technical foul with 1:58 left in the half. Allen hit the free throw to push his team ahead, 52-36. The Celtics entered intermission with a 60-37 lead, holding Denver to a season-low in first-half points.

Denver shot 30.6 percent from the field in the first half, had just 2 second-chance points, and was outrebounded, 29-16.

An Allen 3-pointer gave Boston a mammoth 70-43 lead with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Another Allen 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 75-46 lead with 5:41 remaining. Boston held an 86-58 lead through three quarters.

"We lost," said Anthony, who had 18 points. "There is not much you can say about that. They came in, made shots, played well."

Allen was fouled by Anthony Carter while hitting a 3-pointer with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter and made the free throw to give Boston a 92-59 lead. Allen and Carter were both slapped with technicals for jawing afterward. Playing it safe with a big lead, Rivers took the hot Allen out for seldom-used rookie Bill Walker 11 seconds later.

"I didn't like it," Rivers said. "The game was getting chippy. We had the lead. Get him out of there before something bad happens."

Said Allen, "The little interaction Anthony Carter and myself had was unnecessary. But at that point, we looked like we had pretty good control of the game."

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