Celtics 104, Nuggets 100
BOSTON (AP)—Playing in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day has been the ultimate home-court advantage for the Celtics.
Wearing green road uniforms, socks and headbands, with Irish dancing and music punctuating the timeouts and green beer being served in the stands, the Celtics beat the Denver Nuggets 104-100 on Wednesday night and improved to 12-1 at home on the holiday.
“St. Patrick’s Day. Coach of the Celtics. What more could you ask?” interim coach John Carroll, who is half-Irish, said before the game.
How about a victory that moved Boston within a half-game of eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race?
“It was just a gutsy win,” Carroll said afterward, proud to see his team playing with more intensity as the game went on. “I didn’t feel as though we were playing like cornered rats. And I felt at this time in the year, I needed to see more desperation.”
Paul Pierce had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Celtics, who have beaten Denver seven consecutive times in Boston and 10 of 11 overall. Mark Blount had 17 points with 15 rebounds and Chucky Atkins had 21 points and 10 assists for the Celtics.
“Somebody else on this team is going to have score besides Paul Pierce in order for us to win games,” Atkins said. “I was just trying to take what was given to me.”
Carmelo Anthony had 20 points and nine rebounds and Voshon Lenard scored 19 for the Nuggets, who are struggling to hold onto the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Nene had 12 points and 10 rebounds before leaving midway through the third quarter with a left ankle sprain; he is considered day-to-day.
“I am worried about my guy,” Nuggets center Marcus Camby said. “I don’t know how serious it is, but if he can go he will be out there.”
Boston led by five before Andre Miller made a free throw and Anthony hit two to make it 101-99 with 1:19 left. Pierce went in for a dunk but Miller muscled the ball away and blocked the shot.
The Celtics got the ball, and after a timeout Pierce dribbled away from a double team and hit a fadeaway jumper with 25.9 seconds left that gave Boston a 103-99 lead. At the other end, Miller got the ball in the left corner, set himself and fired a 3-point attempt that went over the far side of the rim.
The Celtics fell behind 9-0 from the opening tip and trailed 58-51 near the start of the third quarter before scoring 24 of the next 30 points to take an 11-point lead. Pierce dunked, Walter McCarty hit a 3-pointer and Pierce had a steal and a layup to tie the game with 9:49 left in the quarter.
The Nuggets took the lead again before Pierce hit a 3-pointer to tie it, McCarty hit a 3 for the lead and Blount and Pierce made layups, making it 68-61.
After Anthony dunked and converted a three-point play, Boston scored seven consecutive points, with a 3-pointer by Atkins and fast-break layups by Blount and Atkins, to make it 75-64 with 5:07 left in the third.
Denver came back to take the lead, 89-84, before Pierce hit a free throw and Ricky Davis made a dunk. Atkins made a running jumper to tie it and a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top with 7:18 to play.
Camby had 10 of the Nuggets’ first 15 points and 12 overall in the firstquarter, but he had zero points in the second.
Blount and Ricky Davis were sent home early from Tuesday’s practice for being a “distraction.” “I felt it would be better with 10 guys at practice instead of 12,” Carroll said. Both played on Wednesday. … It was Anthony’s first time in the FleetCenter since playing the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament here last year to start Syracuse’s march to the national championship. … The green uniforms, embroidered with the date, will beauctioned off for charity.