DENVER (AP)—At this rate, Kevin Garnett can take all the time he needs to get healthy.
The Boston Celtics handed the Nuggets one of the worst home losses in their history Monday night, routing Denver 114-76 behind 26 points from Ray Allen. It was Boston’s second game since Garnett strained a muscle in his right knee that is expected to sidelined him for at least two weeks.
Paul Pierce added 22 points for the Celtics, who raced to a 60-37 halftime lead that rendered the second half a let’s-get-it-over-with exercise.
This was Denver’s worst home loss since Feb. 2, 1998, when the Nuggets were routed by Chicago 111-72. The 38-point margin of defeat tied for the second-biggest home loss since Denver joined the NBA in 1976.
“I think it was a championship team (that) wanted to kick somebody’s butt,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.
The Celtics were certainly motivated to avenge their 94-85 loss to the Nuggets at the Garden in November, one of just four losses at home for Boston this season.
“We’ve been pretty sour about that all year,” Allen said. “We felt as though we should’ve won that game, they stole it from us. We remembered it. … It’s tough to really try to make a connection because from then to now, both teams are playing totally different basketball. We were focused on what we needed to do because we’re a different team now with Kevin out.”
Rajon Rondo (14 points) said coach Doc Rivers “gave a great motivational speech. He told us they bullied us last time.”
And this night, the bullies got bullied.
“We just wanted to play great defense, and that’s what we did,” Rivers said. “We felt they were far more physical than us when they played us at Boston. Our point of emphasis was to come out and battle tonight. This was going to be a nasty, battle game and we were going to have to be ready for it.”
But 38 points?
“They come off one hell of a trip. We understand that. That’s why we thought the energy would be on our side,” Rivers said. “You play in Milwaukee and have a back-to-back game at home in Denver? I don’t know if there’s a more difficult schedule than that.”
J.R. Smith had 19 points and Carmelo Anthony 18 for the Nuggets, who lost for the third time in four nights and saw their lead over second-place Portland trimmed to a single game in the suddenly up-for-grabs Northwest Division. Third-place Utah has sliced its six-game deficit in half in five nights.
“It’s a tough patch right now, it really is,” Nuggets floor leader Chauncey Billups said.
The Celtics overpowered the Nuggets from start to finish, never letting up until the final seconds when they bypassed an easy bucket to run out the clock.
Reserve Leon Powe added 16 points for Boston, which led 86-58 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We lost. Ain’t really that much you can say about that,” Anthony said. “They came in and made shots., played well. We can make a lot of excuses about being fatigued, been on the road a long time, (playing) back to back, just getting home. There are a lot of things that can play into it. But we lost tonight. We’ll take it on our chin and get ready for Wednesday.”
While the Celtics didn’t miss KG, the Nuggets longed for their big man, Nene, who is expected to miss a week with a bruised right knee he injured Sunday night at Milwaukee.
“Not having him is going to take some getting used to, hopefully not for too long,” Billups said. “But it’s different without Nene.”
Johan Petro made his first start for Denver and scored nine points to go with 10 rebounds, but he was the team’s lone bright spot.
Neither Karl nor his players begrudged the Celtics for firing away in the second half when the game was way out of hand.
“I don’t get into that,” Anthony said. “The game was still going on and there was still time on the clock. They can’t hold the ball for 10 minutes.”
Anthony received a diamond ring in pregame ceremonies from USA Basketball commemorating the gold medal he helped the United States win at the Beijing Olympics last summer. … Celtics C Brian Scalabrine strained his neck in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Allen bruised his tailbone in a fourth-quarter fall but said he wouldn’t miss any time.