Pierce leads Celts with 33 points, 10 assists

DENVER (AP) -- The Boston Celtics had plenty of built-in excuses
for failure, including a late arrival that denied any sort of
shootaround. But they never used them.

Paul Pierce had 33 points and 10 assists, and Eric Williams added a season-high 21 points to lead Boston to a 116-111 victory
over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

"It would have been easy for us to say we traveled all day and
just got here and it's been a rough two days," Pierce said. "We
didn't make any excuses and we just went out there and got the job

Pierce was 12 of 22 from the field and had seven rebounds to
help Boston end a four-game losing streak. Williams played
additional minutes because Vin Baker was unable to go in the second
half because to flu-like symptoms.

"I took advantage of the opportunities," Pierce said. "A lot
of times we are playing a lot of close games and we are giving up
games in the front court, so I took it upon myself.

"Whether I scored a basket or made a play to somebody else to
give them an easy opportunity, especially in the fourth quarter
when we have been struggling lately."

The Celtics didn't arrive in Denver until five hours before the
game because of a snowstorm in Boston.

"We didn't make a big deal out of that, never talked about it
one time," Boston coach Jim O'Brien said. "I thought to be on the
road against a good team that has won six in a row and has a lot of
weapons, for us to be able to gut out a win is a good sign for our
basketball team."

Reserve Rodney White had 23 points and Voshon Lenard added 20 points for the Nuggets.

"The Celtics came in and outhustled us," Denver coach Jeff
Bzdelik said. "We allowed 62 points in the first half simply by
being outplayed, outhustled."

Boston seemed to have the game in hand when Pierce sank two free
throws to make it 111-102, but Rodney White hit two 3-pointers to
get the Nuggets to 113-111 with 28 seconds left.

Mike James and Pierce sealed the win with two free throws each.

Carmelo Anthony, who had only eight points for three quarters,
brought the Nuggets back with six points in the first four minutes
of the final period. His free throw after a driving layup tied it
at 94.

"I thought we'd get going after I hit a couple of shots,"
Anthony said. "It did, but we couldn't slow down Pierce even with
a double team."

But Anthony's dunk to tie it again at 98 was followed by 9-0 run
for Boston. Pierce had four points during the run, and Jiri
Welsch's 3-pointer made it 105-96.

"We allowed Pierce to get too many easy looks and allowed their
team to get too comfortable," Bzdelik said.

Game notes
Raef LaFrentz escaped the wrath of the Pepsi Center crowd
that two days earlier had booed Nick Van Exel. LaFrentz and Van
Exel were booed when they returned last season when both were with
Dallas. ... Welsch finished with a career-high 19 points. ...
Boston had won three of the previous four meetings in Denver and
eight of nine overall. ... Marcus Camby scored the Nuggets' first
eight points. ... Denver's Jon Barry has hit 25 straight free
throws. He was 2-or-2 against the Celtics.

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