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
"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
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
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
"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.''
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.