DENVER (TICKER) —The Denver Nuggets really did appear to turn back the clock on ’70s Night, recalling the high-flying days of David Thompson, Dan Issel and Alex English.
Sporting their old “Skyline” rainbow jerseys, high socks and headbands, the struggling Nuggets snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Boston Celtics with a 90-80 triumph.
The Nuggets appeared headed for another setback, falling behind, 38-31, with 3:05 left in the second quarter. But they closed the period with a 10-0 run, taking the lead for good at 39-38 on Marcus Camby’s dunk with 50 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Nuggets outscored the Celtics, 30-19, in the third quarter and held them off in the fourth to record their first win over Boston since a 112-99 victory here on February 10, 1998.
Rookie Junior Harrington contributed 12 points and Rodney White had 11 as Denver bounced back from a heartbreaking 101-99 overtime loss at Seattle on Friday to snap a four-game losing streak.
“I like the retros, they’re in and everybody likes them,” Harrington said. “It’s pretty cool to go out there and play in them. It was better in them to get the win.”
Coach Jeff Bzdelik was asked if preferred Denver’s newer uniforms, rather than the older, more garish editions.
“You know, it’s easier to look at the stat sheet now,” he said. “Those are nice, it’s a good thing.”
Paul Pierce scored 31 points and Antoine Walker added 21 for Boston but shot a combined 15-of-43 from the field. The Celtics fell to 0-3 on their four-game road trip and 4 1/2 games behind New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“We did not seem to have the energy to challenge their intensity,” Boston coach Jim O’ Brien said. “It was a good victory for the Nuggets. Our defense was very poor. We were not playing with the urgency needed to be a good basketball team. We are struggling in a lot of areas, defensively and offensively. We are playing like a tired team right now and that has to change.”
Walker had 19 points by halftime, scoring 13 in the first quarter. Pierce, who fouled out, was held to just six in the first quarter, but put in 14 in the third. Both were scoreless in the fourth.
“Our team is now running a little scared,” Pierce said. “It was a tough loss for us tonight, especially this late in the season. We did not defend and did not play at a high level for four quarters. We need to play at the same level every time that we step on the court. We have to turn it around. We know we are capable it is just a matter of doing it. It was definitely a tough loss. We cannot just walk in the gym and expect to win no matter who we play.”
Boston was practically a two-man team as its bench was outscored by Denver’s reserves, 23-4.
“Pierce was 8-of-25, 3-of-11 in the first half and that’s the way we wanted to play him,” Bzdelik said. “Make him earn it, make him a driver, if he went, he was going to earn it.
“We’ve taken our hits from great players. Over the course of time, I think finally they’re understanding how to play great players and make them earn their points with very low shooting percentage with a multitude of shots. I mean, those two guys took 43 shot and only hit 15 of them.”
Howard’s three-point play gave the Nuggets their largest lead, 78-59, with 9:29 to go. But the Celtics kept Denver’s attention late, pulling within 87-79 with 48 seconds left on a pair of free throws by rookie J.R. Bremer.
However, Hilario converted 1-of-2 free throws and Williams made two for the final margin.
“It was a game where our team really gutted out a win,” Bzdelik said. “Especially after coming back last night where we had a chance to win, did everything right to win. One thing that our young players have to understand is how to win. We put ourselves in the position to win many times throughout the course of the year, but we’d let teams slip away. Our execution down the stretch has to be better, but we’ll work on that and show them on film. But tonight we held on and that was a great win.”
The Nuggets, who shot 47 percent from the field, turned around their fortunes at the line. They had shot just 60 percent over their previous six contests but hit 18-of-27 on Saturday.
Former Nugget Tony Battie had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which shot 31 percent (23-of-75).