Celtics-Nuggets Live: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett Refuse to Let Celts Lose in 118-114 Triple-Overtime Thriller

Kevin GarnettGame (finally) over, Celtics 118-114: The streak is dead. Long live the streak.

The Celtics continue their run of victories to seven straight games while snapping the Nuggets’ win streak at nine. It was not easy. Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry combined for 11 points in the third overtime to seal the win; but this one had many heroes. Paul Pierce hit an insane step-back 3-pointer to force the third OT and Jeff Green came through repeatedly toward the end of regulation and in the extra sessions with big shots.

Ty Lawson was immense for Denver, scoring a game-high 29 points with nine assists. Pierce and Terry were right on his heels with 27 points and 26 points, respectively, while Pierce also grabbed 14 boards. Garnett cashed in 20 and 18 with three blocks in 47 hard-earned minutes.

Pierce is going to be dog-tired by Tuesday. As a reward for his 54 minutes of work, he gets to hop on a plane to play in Charlotte on Monday night. Yippee.

Third overtime, 2:19, Celtics 113-110: Pushing his 45th minute of action, Garnett does not look fatigued. In fact, he looks motivated. He has outscored the Nuggets on his own, 6-3 in this third extra session. Denver is paying the price for keying on Pierce and Terry.

End of second overtime, game tied 107-107: If Gallinari had actually hit the heavily contested layup he short-armed at the buzzer, the travel police might have had to go back and count his steps.

Ball don’t lie, however, the shot was missed and we are headed to OT No. 3. Here goes nothing.

Second overtime, :05.2, game tied 107-107: Let’s try to recap.

Pierce missed one of two free throws. Lawson hit a jumper, and the Nuggets led by three. Pierce came right back with a nearly impossible 27-footer that, of course, dropped through the hoop.

Notre Dame-Louisville Part Deux, anyone?

Second overtime, :37, Nuggets 105-103: Well, the Celtics capitalized on the bad out-of-bounds call. Garnett was inexplicably left wide open and drained the jumper to knot it up, but Gallinari came right back with a step-back jumper to give Denver the lead back.

Second overtime, 1:01, Nuggets 103-101: Green keeps coming to the rescue. Hear that, haters?

Green tossed in a sweeping hook to bring Boston within two points, then intercepted a pass by Miller and took off for the other end. Green’s bank shot rimmed out, though, and the ball was awarded to the Celtics even though it appeared Green knocked it out.

Second overtime, 2:46, Nuggets 103-99: A few seconds shy of his 40th minute in this game, Garnett needed to take a seat. With a road game on Monday, the Celtics cannot afford to burn out their 36-year-old center here, even if a winning streak is on the line.

With Garnett off the court in the second OT, the Celtics look predictably disjointed. There have been only two baskets, but both of them are by Denver.

End of first overtime, game tied 99-99: Lawson could not find the magic again. He missed the pull-up three (pretty badly, also) as time expired. In their ninth overtime game of the season, the Celtics are headed for their fourth double-OT game of the season. (They’re 2-1 in two overtimes, in case you are wondering.)

Overtime, :23.8, game tied 99-99: Jeff Green to the rescue.

Jeff Green to the rescue?

After a missed three by Pierce, the Celtics were in dire straits. They managed to force a miss by Miller, and after a hectic possession in which nobody seemed to want to take a shot, Garnett found Green in the corner for the tying bucket.

Overtime, 1:30, Nuggets 99-96: The Celtics had better be careful because this one could be getting away from them. They look haphazard on offense and have only gotten decent shots out of some frantic sets. Miller gave the Nuggets a three-point lead, their largest of the game, with a step-back jumper that has the Celtics’ win streak in jeopardy.

End of regulation, game tied 92-92: What a crazy final five seconds.

With the Nuggets trailing by two, Kenneth Faried went to the foul line with 5.4 seconds remaining and missed both shots, but Andre Miller burst in and had a chance at the game-tying tip-in. But Faried interfered with his teammate’s putback, and after a very, very long review, Denver retained possession. Once it got straightened out, Lawson took on Bradley and banked home the tying bucket with 0.8 seconds left.

Another overtime, where the Nuggets are undefeated (3-0) this season.

Fourth quarter, 1:27, game tied 90-90: Denver’s first lead of the game did not last long. Lawson pulled the Nuggets ahead with a step-back jumper, but as the ball went through the hoop Faried was whistled for a technical foul.

Terry canned the free throw to knot the score, but the Celtics still have some issues. They have been outscored 20-12 in the fourth quarter so far and the Nuggets are showing the momentum that enabled them to win nine straight.

Fourth quarter, 2:34, Celtics 89-88: Here comes that Miller guy again. Right when Green sensed a mouse in the house and took Lawson into the post for a baby hook, giving the Celtics a sigh of relief, Miller powered back with a tough open-court layup to cut it to four. After Miller forced Pierce to miss a contested jumper, Lawson raced downcourt and found Faried for an and-one layup.

Fourth quarter, 5:58, Celtics 87-80: What one old guard can do, another one can do just as well.

Terry responded to Miller by bookending the Celtics’ 9-2 run with two very different type of offensive plays. The first was a pull-up jumper, a pretty typical part of Terry’s repertoire. The end was Terry driving baseline and drawing two defenders before kicking it out to Garnett on the left baseline for a jumper.

Fourth quarter, 9:53, game tied 78-78: Lawson took the Nuggets most of the way. The other Denver point guard finished the work to pull the Nuggets even.

Miller used his strength to bully Barbosa on the right baseline, getting a fadeaway jumper over the smaller defender. He then swept into the lane for a double-pump layup to knot up the score and prompt a quick timeout from the Celtics bench. One win streak is ending here, either the Nuggets’ nine-gamer or the Celtics’ six-gamer.

We will let you know which one it is in about 10 minutes of game time.

End of third quarter, Celtics 78-70: The Celts keep doing just enough to stay in the lead, but not enough to put away the Nuggets.

Just when the Nuggets pushed back within striking distance, again, on a goaltending violation by Wilcox, the Celtics swung the ball around the perimeter to Barbosa for a three. That was just the third field goal in the quarter not scored by Pierce or Terry, who combined for 20 points in the frame. Terry is just two points shy of his season-high of 20 points.

Lawson is getting his shots whenever he wants, though. He enters the final quarter with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. (If you are looking for Iguodala, you won’t find him on the court in the fourth, He is out with a right cervical strain, according to the team.)

Third quarter, 5:10, Celtics 69-58: Pierce will not let the Nuggets crack through. The Celtics’ captain scored his team’s first 10 points of the second half, with Garnett hitting a reverse layup almost five minutes in to finally give a Boston player other than Pierce a crooked number in the scoring column. Pierce added two more free throws for good measure after that.

The ball is moving once again for the Celtics, who have restored their double-digit lead. It is pretty clear what the Celtics need to do to beat the Nuggets, who cannot match them defensively. As long as the Celtics stay aggressive at both ends, they can outpace the Nuggets, who are really only built to be aggressive at one end — the offensive end.

Halftime, Celtics 50-46: It feels like we have said this before, but that first half certainly could have ended better for the Celtics. After leading by as many as a dozen, the Celtics allowed the Nuggets to finish the half on a 10-4 run. Kosta Koufos scored the final points of the half on a careless defensive possession by the Celtics, who had a chance to corral a miss by Denver but instead frittered the ball away.

Watch out for Gallinari in the second half. Normally Denver’s leading scorer, Gallinari was held scoreless until the last five minutes of the second quarter, and that one point came on a defensive three seconds free throw. He added a running layup to get his first field goal, but overall he was ice cold. Expect Gallo to be much better than 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-2 from three in the third and fourth quarters.

Jason Terry was the high man for the Celtics. He hit four of his seven shots for a game-high 10 points as he continues to look like a different player in Rajon Rondo’s absence.

Second quarter, 5:36, Celtics 40-33: You cannot get careless against Denver. The Nuggets are only a middle-of-the-pack squad defensively, but they make their opponents pay for their mistakes. Corey Brewer showed how when he stole the ball after a Denver basket and put back his own miss to complete a 6-0 run for the Nugs.

Garnett responded with some hard work against Gallinari, who has been annoying the Big Ticket all night. Garnett nabbed a missed three by Lee and muscled in a layup as he was fouled by Gallinari. Garnett gave a cathartic fist pump as he headed to the line.

Second quarter, 8:59, Celtics 33-27: Andre Miller is not much of a shooter, so it is understandable that the Celtics thought they could leave him unattended outside the arc. But the 13-year veteran canned the triple, which he does just occasionally enough for teams to not completely pack it in when he is playing off the ball.

End of first quarter, Celtics 29-19: Prior to the game, Rivers lauded the Nuggets’ style of play. He credited George Karl’s system in which the ball is constantly moving and finding the open man. Maybe Karl should return the compliment.

The Celtics recorded assists on all 11 of their field goals in the first quarter and it showed in their shooting percentage. They shot 53 percent from the field, using their ball movement to make up for having three of their shots blocked and getting outrebounded 13-8.

The Celtics will never outscore the Nuggets in the paint — nobody does — but they have been able to limit Denver’s damage elsewhere. The Nuggets have 14 points in the paint but are just 1-for-7 from the 3-point line and have yet to attempt a free throw.

First quarter, 5:46, Celtics 14-11: I told you so.

You didn’t really expect the Celtics to stay that hot, or the Nuggets to stay that cold, for the entire game, did you? After their 0-for-4 start, the Nuggets are 5-for-5 from the field. Lawson is making defenders look slow, as he often does, and Faried is all over the place at both end of the floor, as usual.

Lawson and Faried combined for a pure-energy bucket when the point guard lofted a lob from near halfcourt to a streaking Faried for the alley-oop dunk.

First quarter, 8:43, Celtics 9-0: The Nuggets play one of the fastest paces in the league, but the Celtics are out-running them early. The Celtics have forced four turnovers and run out to a quick lead. Do not think the Celtics are comfortable, though. The Nuggets are capable of putting up nine points in the blink of an eye.

5:19 p.m.: The Celtics, wisely, chose not to hold practice the last two days due to the storm that dumped two feet of snow on the Boston area. Celtics coach Doc Rivers begrudgingly made the decision after hearing the recommendations from security personnel and Gov. Deval Patrick’s driving ban. But Rivers is still worried about what that could mean for his players’ legs against the Nuggets, who should be in rhythm after playing in Cleveland on Saturday.

The Celtics came in early for a shootaround and walkthrough — which was more of a “run-through,” according to Rivers — but we will see how two days of being cramped in the house affects them.

As for how Rivers spent his time in the storm? He made gumbo and walked around the empty streets of the city.

The projected starters, all shoveled out, appear below.

Nuggets
Kosta Koufos
Kenneth Faried
Danilo Gallinari
Andre Iguodala
Ty Lawson

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Courtney Lee
Avery Bradley

4:13 p.m.: Fab Melo did not spend much time back up north. After scoring his first NBA points in Thursday’s win over the Lakers, the rookie out of Syracuse was quickly sent down to the D-League. His stay in Portland lasted just one game, though, as the Celtics brought him right back for this one against the Nuggets.

So, if you are wondering what 95 North looks like after the storm, ask Fab. He probably got a pretty good look at it over the last couple of days.

8 a.m. ET: No team in the NBA is hotter than the Denver Nuggets — not even the guys from Boston, who are on a six-game winning streak.

After lurching through a road-heavy schedule to begin the season, the Nuggets (33-18) are on fire. They have lost just three games since Jan. 1, going 16-3 in that span, including their current nine-game win streak. Before that they had a six-game win streak interrupted in mid-January but scored an overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to get back on a winning track.

The Nuggets’ success comes from their breakneck pace. They are second in the NBA with 97.4 possessions used per game, and their offensive efficiency is sixth in the league at 105.8 points per 100 possessions. With a style that focuses on getting layups and 3-pointers, they lead the league in points in the paint despite not having a traditional dominant post scorer.

In other words, the Celtics (26-23) will have their work cut out for them. If the Celtics hold to form, they should lose this game. Before this six-game win streak, they lost six in a row, so if the pattern holds they will lose to the Nuggets and then drop the next five, too. (If only it were that predictable.)

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. ET.

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