Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 1/24

Game 1: Friday, January 24th
Game 2: Saturday, March 22nd

Celtics 80

(38-32, 16-20 away)

Nuggets 90


Coverage: FSRM

8:00 PM ET, March 22, 2003

Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

1 2 3 4 T
BOS 26 12 19 2380
DEN 18 23 30 1990

Top Performers

Boston: P. Pierce 31 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Denver: J. Howard 27 Pts, 7 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Blk

Nuggets focus on stopping Pierce, stymie Celtics

DENVER (AP) -- After Paul Pierce got the best of them in their previous meeting, the Denver Nuggets weren't going to let it happen again.

Pierce, who had 45 points against Denver on Jan. 24, was held to 8-for-25 shooting Saturday night as the Nuggets earned their first win over Boston in their last nine meetings, 90-80 Saturday night.

"We played Pierce the way he has to be played,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "Make him the driver and make him earn it.''

The Nuggets used the same strategy with Antoine Walker, who had 21 points but was scoreless in the second half as the Celtics lost their fourth straight. Pierce finished with 31.

"We have been taking hits from great players,'' Bzdelik said. "Finally, we are understanding how to play great players and make them earn their points.''

Juwan Howard had 27 points and seven rebounds to lead the Denver. Howard shot 11-for-18 and Nene Hilario added 16 points for the Nuggets, who last beat the Celtics on Nov. 15, 1996 in Boston.

Denver snapped a four-game losing streak.

"This is a tough loss for us, especially this late in the season as we are battling for playoff position,'' Pierce said. "The things we are capable of doing we did not get done.''

Boston coach Jim O'Brien didn't limit the blame to Pierce and Walker.

"We are struggling in a lot of areas,'' O'Brien said. "We are struggling defensively and offensively, and we are playing like a tired basketball team right now.''

Howard hit two jumpers in a 7-0 run that gave Denver a 56-47 lead. Rodney White's 3-pointer and six straight points by Junior Harrington at the end of the third quarter extended Denver's lead to 71-56.

The Celtics stayed cold in fourth quarter, going three minutes without a field goal. Howard hit four free throws and had a dunk as Denver led 79-62, and Howard's layup extended the lead to 81-62.

Pierce, who had 14 points in the final quarter, kept Boston within striking distance, and his 3-pointer with 1:15 left narrowed the lead to 85-78. White countered with a jumper for Denver and the Celtics had only two free throws by J.R. Bremer the rest of the way.

Walker started quickly with 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting with two 3-pointers to help Boston lead 26-18 after one quarter. Howard defended Walker much of the period and had eight points.

Walker hit two hook shots early in the second quarter to extend the Celtics lead' to 30-21, but Boston didn't score again in the half after his jumper with 3:03 left. Denver closed the half with a 10-0 run, the last four points coming from Marcus Camby to lead 41-38.

"Pierce is a good player and you know he will get his shots,'' Denver point guard Junior Harrington said. "So all you can do is make him work hard for every point.''

Game notes

Celtics backup center Mark Blount has yet to play a game since being obtained from the Nuggets on Feb. 20. ... Boston is 5-9 on the second night of back-to-back games. ... Ryan Bowen played after missing Friday's game with a strained abdominal muscle. ... The Nuggets wore replica rainbow jerseys from the 1989-90 season. Denver is 8-12 when scoring at least 90 points.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 80 90
FGM-FGA 23-75 (.307) 35-74 (.473)
3PM-3PA 6-21 (.286) 2-10 (.200)
FTM-FTA 28-32 (.875) 18-27 (.667)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-38 9-45
Assists 15 25
Turnovers 19 21
Steals 7 8
Blocks 2 11
Fast Break Points 4 8
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 24 (2/1) 31 (0/0)

Top Performers

Paul Pierce Pierce
Points: 31
Reb: 6
Ast: 3
Stl: 2
Blk: 1
Juwan Howard Howard
Points: 27
Reb: 7
Ast: 5
Stl: 0
Blk: 1