BOSTON -- Almost fully recovered from having his knee drained in mid-February for the third time this season, Paul Pierce is having one of his best stretches of the year, and the Celtics are thriving because of it.
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week posted his fourth game of scoring 26 points or more in his last five outings by torching Denver's defense for 27 points to lead the Celtics to a 113-99 triumph over the visiting Nuggets.
Pierce, who also had seven rebounds, is averaging 24.4 points per game over his last five outings and the Celtics are 4-1 in that span.
Pierce and Denver guard Carmelo Anthony (32 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) had an epic battle on the court, with Pierce carrying his team to victory.
Kevin Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds) helped Boston dominate the paint where they outscored Denver 58-28 and outrebounded the Nuggets 45-36. The Celtics also had 23 second chance points to Denver's eight.
Boston All-Star guard Rajon Rondo registered a triple-double (11 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds and 4 steals) and outplayed Denver All-Star guard Chauncey Billups (12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists).
The Celtics have now won four straight home games which is their longest home winning streak of the season. They've also won six of their last seven at the Garden.
Pierce and Anthony both got their respective teams off to good starts. Pierce scored 14 points in the first quarter which helped Boston earn a 30-27 lead over Denver after one quarter of action. Anthony recorded 11 points in the opening chapter.
Both players cooled off in the second quarter, with Pierce being limited to two points and Anthony held to three. But Boston's bench, led by Tony Allen (13 points), Michael Finley (8 points) and Nate Robinson (7 points) came alive in the second quarter, helping Boston to break open the game before halftime.
After J.R. Smith (21 points) gave Denver a brief 34-33 lead 2:58 into the second quarter, the Celtics got hot from the floor and went on a 22-10 run to take control of the game. Tony Allen capped off Boston surge with two free throws with 2:10 remaining in the half that gave the Celtics a 56-43 lead and the Celtics never let up after that.
The Celtics led 61-51 at halftime, and turned that into a 21 point cushion (79-58) by the midway point of the third quarter on a Rondo free throw.
But Denver refused to go away quietly. Anthony put the Nuggets on his back and scored 12 of Denver's next 19 points to help close the gap to 85-77 with 58 seconds left, and a Smith 3-pointer at the buzzer made it 87-80 heading into the fourth quarter.
Robinson began the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for the C's. A Rondo steal on Denver's ensuing possession led to a Robinson fastbreak layup that quickly pushed Boston's lead back up to 12. The Celtics were able to keep the Nuggets at arms-length the rest of the game.