BOSTON — The Boston Celtics, the sub-.500 leaders of the woeful Atlantic Division, scored the first 14 points en route to a 106-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
The win was the fifth in the last seven games for the Celtics, who improved to 9-12.
Boston led by as many as 25 points in the first half and by 20 at the break before Denver (11-8) battled back to within three with 3:37 left in the third quarter. The Celtics then broke it open again and held off another Nuggets charge.
Guard Jordan Crawford scored 22 points and added eight assists and four rebounds to lead five Celtics players in double figures. Forward Kris Humphries came off the bench with a season-high 18 points, in a season-high 23 minutes, and seven rebounds. He was 8-for-11 from the floor. Guard Avery Bradley also had 18 points, including 15 in the first half, and forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Bass also had eight rebounds.
The loss was Denver’s second straight.
Guard Ty Lawson led six Nuggets in double figures with 20 points.
After scoring 39 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s win over Milwaukee, the Celtics scored 39 points in the first quarter Monday night, opening the game by shooting 7-for-9 in the 14-0 run. They were 17-for-26 from the floor in the quarter, turning the ball over just once (five times in the first half).
Bradley was 4-for-5 from the floor in the first half, adding four rebounds and an assist, while Crawford had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds in the half.
NOTES: Denver G Nate Robinson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for comments he made about officials after getting a technical foul in New York on Nov. 29. According to the Denver Post, Robinson said, “They hate me, they hate me. I don’t know why, but it is what it is. I already know I’ve got the target on my back, but I’ll play through it. I don’t care. I really don’t. It doesn’t bother me none.” … Celtics rookie F/C Kelly Olynyk missed his seventh straight game with a right ankle sprain but is close to returning. “He’ll probably be out Sunday (in New York against the Knicks). He’ll be day-to-day starting next week,” Stevens said before the game. “Tuesday might be a stretch, it might not be. I don’t know. But he’s close to being back.” … The Nuggets finish their six-game road trip at Philadelphia on Saturday and Washington on Monday. … The Celtics observed a pre-game moment of silence for Nelson Mandela.
Knicks 121, Magic 83: The New York Knicks ended their six-game home losing streak, knocking off the Orlando Magic 121-83 Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Forward Carmelo Anthony topped the Knicks (5-13), who won their second straight game for the first time this season, with 20 points. Anthony, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, played sparingly in the second half as New York held double-digit leads for most of the half.
The lopsided win Friday night was the second in a row for coach Mike Woodson’s team. New York defeated its city rival, the Brooklyn Nets, 113-83 Thursday night.
Orlando (7-12) received 20 points from guard Arron Afflalo and 17 points from guard Victor Oladipo. The Magic have dropped four games in a row.
The Knicks emptied their bench with a 30-point cushion, 105-75, and 6:30 to play.
Two elements during the Knicks’ long home losing streak was their inability to share the ball and their lack of success from beyond the arc. Against Orlando, they recorded a season-high 17 3-pointers and dished out 23 assists, their second-highest total of the season.
New York opened up a 16-point lead, 79-63, with 2:40 left in the game. Iman Shumpert’s driving dunk over Orlando’s Mo Harkless culminated a 7-0 burst that provided the Knicks with their biggest lead at home this season.
The Knicks broke a 34-34 deadlock with an 11-5 run midway through the second quarter en route to a 59-54 halftime lead. The Knicks bench contributed 23 of New York’s 31 second-quarter points.
The 59 first-half points were the most by the Knicks since their opening night win over Milwaukee on Oct. 30.
Forward Metta World Peace led the Knicks subs with eight points and guards J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed six points each.
The Magic came out sizzling from long range. Orlando benefitted from the Knicks poor job of covering the perimeter, converting six of their seven 3-point shots, resulting in Orlando’s 31-28 lead after the first quarter.