DENVER (AP)—The Boston Celtics had plenty of built-in excuses for failure, including a late arrival that denied any sort of shootaround. But they never used them.
“It would have been easy for us to say we traveled all day and just got here and it’s been a rough two days,” Pierce said. “We didn’t make any excuses and we just went out there and got the job done.”
Pierce was 12 of 22 from the field and had seven rebounds to help Boston end a four-game losing streak. Williams played additional minutes because Vin Baker was unable to go in the second half because to flu-like symptoms.
“I took advantage of the opportunities,” Pierce said. “A lot of times we are playing a lot of close games and we are giving up games in the front court, so I took it upon myself.
“Whether I scored a basket or made a play to somebody else to give them an easy opportunity, especially in the fourth quarter when we have been struggling lately.”
The Celtics didn’t arrive in Denver until five hours before the game because of a snowstorm in Boston.
“We didn’t make a big deal out of that, never talked about it one time,” Boston coach Jim O’Brien said. “I thought to be on the road against a good team that has won six in a row and has a lot of weapons, for us to be able to gut out a win is a good sign for our basketball team.”
“The Celtics came in and outhustled us,” Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “We allowed 62 points in the first half simply by being outplayed, outhustled.”
Boston seemed to have the game in hand when Pierce sank two free throws to make it 111-102, but Rodney White hit two 3-pointers to get the Nuggets to 113-111 with 28 seconds left.
Mike James and Pierce sealed the win with two free throws each.
Carmelo Anthony, who had only eight points for three quarters, brought the Nuggets back with six points in the first four minutes of the final period. His free throw after a driving layup tied it at 94.
“I thought we’d get going after I hit a couple of shots,” Anthony said. “It did, but we couldn’t slow down Pierce even with a double team.”
But Anthony’s dunk to tie it again at 98 was followed by 9-0 run for Boston. Pierce had four points during the run, and Jiri Welsch’s 3-pointer made it 105-96.
“We allowed Pierce to get too many easy looks and allowed their team to gettoo comfortable,” Bzdelik said.
Raef LaFrentz escaped the wrath of the Pepsi Center crowd that two days earlier had booed Nick Van Exel. LaFrentz and Van Exel were booed when they returned last season when both were with Dallas. … Welsch finished with a career-high 19 points. … Boston had won three of the previous four meetings in Denver and eight of nine overall. … Marcus Camby scored the Nuggets’ first eight points. … Denver’s Jon Barry has hit 25 straight free throws. He was2-or-2 against the Celtics.