DENVER – Kenyon Martin scored 18 points and newcomer Wilson Chandler chipped in 16 as the Denver Nuggets closed the game with a 16-0 run to beat the shorthanded — and shortened — Boston Celtics 89-75 Thursday night.
The game pitted two teams that reshaped their rosters ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
The Nuggets had a bunch of new players and the Celtics had a bunch of empty seats along their bench following a flurry of trades that unloaded a bunch of big men.
Denver played its first game with the five new players who came over in the blockbuster deal that sent star forward Carmelo Anthony and floor leader Chauncey Billups to the New York Knicks 48 hours earlier.
The Celtics suited up just nine players and had to fight through the emotions of losing center Kendrick Perkins, who was dealt to Oklahoma City for forward Jeff Green in the biggest of Boston's trio of trades Thursday.
The Nuggets, who are 2-0 since trading Melo, had their full complement of players, but their best defender, Martin, missed the second quarter while getting an IV in the locker room.
New Nuggets Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton got off to a slow start, combining to shoot 2-for-12 in the first half, which ended with Denver ahead 37-36.
Denver took a 61-60 lead into the fourth quarter.
Paul Pierce, who led Boston with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer with 6 1/2 minutes remaining that gave Boston a 75-73 lead, but the Celtics wouldn't score again.
Chandler's 3-pointer put Denver ahead for good and Martin's three-point play with 3:03 left gave Denver its biggest lead to that point at 79-75.
Arron Afflalo hit back-to-back jumpers and a bonus and Martin hit a jumper and a 3, after which the downtrodden Celtics walked off the floor as the final 10 seconds ticked off the clock.
The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics also dealt reserve Nate Robinson to the Thunder and received Nenad Krstic, a future first-round draft pick, and cash in the deal that was approved by the NBA about five hours after Thursday's trade deadline.
Earlier in the day, the Celtics acquired draft picks by sending forward Luke Harangody and rookie center Semih Erden to Cleveland and injured swingman Marquis Daniels to Sacramento.
With such a short bench for coach Doc Rivers to work with, the Celtics called up center Chris Johnson from the D-League, signed him to a 10-day contract and put him right to work.
"We had him in camp. So, he'll play tonight," River said. "He won't know what he's doing but he'll be out there. He'll be out there early. We needed the body and he can play a little bit. He was playing terrific in the D-League."
Johnson scored six points.
Perkins recently returned from a knee injury he sustained in Game 6 of the NBA finals. Once loaded with interior size, the Celtics will now have to hope Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal get healthy in time for the playoffs.
"Well, it's a key proponent of this. We need to get Shaq healthy. Shaq will be healthy. But if Shaq plays great, then this deal was obviously really, really good for us," River said. "And that's on Shaq. Getting Shaq in great shape, getting him ready, getting him healthy is really going to be important for us in the playoffs."
The inclusion of Krstic, the Thunder's starting center since they brought him back to the NBA from Russia in December 2008, should help offset Boston's loss of Perkins. Krstic had been out of the league after suffering a knee injury with New Jersey.
The Nuggets are hoping to stay in the playoff hunt in the West following the megadeal that brought in Gallinari, Felton, Chandler and Timofey Mazgov from New York and Kosta Koufus from Minnesota.
The five newcomers participated in one high-altitude practice and one shootaround before facing the Celtics, and Nuggets coach George Karl gave Gallinari the start over J.R. Smith to ease his rotations.
While the big debate across the league Thursday was whether the Celtics made the right move in trading away Perkins, Karl looked at it from the Western Conference perspective.
"I heard Oklahoma City wasn't going to pay the money for Green. In one sense, Oklahoma City is saying they know they have to beat a San Antonio, they have to beat an L.A., they know they have to beat a bigger team in the playoffs and they might not have been big enough," Karl said.
"You can always play small."
Which is what Rivers will have to do more of now.
The Nuggets scored a season-low 37 first-half points, and the Celtics' 36 points was one more than their worst first-half production this season. … Kevin Garnett was going to the free throw line for a bonus after getting fouled by Gallinari in the third quarter, but a video review of the play showed the ball was still in Garnett's hands when the shot clock expired, erasing the basket. … The lowest-scoring game in the NBA this season was New Orleans' 75-71 win at Sacramento on Nov. 21.
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