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Celtics 106, Nuggets 98

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BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics, the sub-.500 leaders of the woeful Atlantic Division, scored the first 14 points en route to a 106-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

The win was the fifth in the last seven games for the Celtics, who improved to 9-12.

Boston led by as many as 27 points in the first half and by 20 at the break before Denver (11-8) battled back to within three with 3:37 left in the third quarter. The Celtics then broke it open again and held off another Nuggets charge.

Guard Jordan Crawford scored 22 points and added eight assists and four rebounds to lead five Celtics players in double figures. Forward Kris Humphries came off the bench with a season-high 18 points, in a season-high 23 minutes, and seven rebounds. He was 8-for-11 from the floor. Guard Avery Bradley also had 18 points, including 15 in the first half, and forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Bass also had eight rebounds.

The loss was Denver's second straight.

Guard Ty Lawson led six Nuggets in double figures with 20 points.

After scoring 39 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's win over Milwaukee, the Celtics scored 39 points in the first quarter Monday night, opening the game by shooting 7-for-9 in the 14-0 run. They were 17-for-26 from the floor in the quarter, turning the ball over just once (five times in the first half).

Bradley was 4-for-5 from the floor in the first half, adding four rebounds and an assist, while Crawford had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds in the half.

NOTES: Denver G Nate Robinson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for comments he made about officials after getting a technical foul in New York on Nov. 29. According to the Denver Post, Robinson said, "They hate me, they hate me. I don't know why, but it is what it is. I already know I've got the target on my back, but I'll play through it. I don't care. I really don't. It doesn't bother me none." ... Celtics rookie F/C Kelly Olynyk missed his seventh straight game with a right ankle sprain but is close to returning. "He'll probably be out Sunday (in New York against the Knicks). He'll be day-to-day starting next week," Stevens said before the game. "Tuesday might be a stretch, it might not be. I don't know. But he's close to being back." ... The Nuggets finish their six-game road trip at Philadelphia on Saturday and Washington on Monday. ... The Celtics observed a pre-game moment of silence for Nelson Mandela.

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