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Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Jeff Green added 19 off the bench as the Boston Celtics crushed the LA Lakers 116-95 at TD Gardens last night. Pierce shot 10/17 (58%) from the field, collected 7 rebounds and handed out a team high 6 assists. Green shot 6/13 (46% ) overall and converted on all 6 of his free throw attempts. Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett each contributed 15 points. The big ticket became the 16th player in NBA history to surpass 25,000 career points. 6 players scored in double figures for the Celtics, who shot 53% for the game from the field and sank 19/25 (76%) from the charity stripe. They also outrebounded the Lakers 48-43 and committed just 9 turnovers. Kobe Bryant led LA with 27 points on 9/15 (64%) from the floor and a perfect 9/9 from the foul line. Jodi Meeks added 13 off the bench and Antawn Jamison contributed 11. Dwight Howard returned after missing 3 games with a sore right shoulder and was held to just 9 points. Pau Gasol remains out indefinitely with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. The Lakers made just 41% of their shots overall including a dismal 5/21 (24%) from 3 point range. They also struggled from the foul line making just 18/30 (60%) and recorded only 16 assists against 14 turnovers. The Lakers cut a 58-44 halftime deficit to 72-61 with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Then the Celtics went on a 23-8 run and led 95-69 going into the fourth. Pierce started the surge with a three-point play and ended it with a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left, giving him 12 points in the period. The win was the Celtics' biggest of the season and broke a tie with Milwaukee for seventh place in the East. They improved to 26-23 and moved within 1 1/2 games of sixth. It was even more special, and perhaps surprising, that the win gave the Celtics 6 straight wins since losing point guard Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn knee ligament. "Some day when I'm rocking in a rocking chair having a cigar and thinking what I've done I'm sure it'll make some sense to me, [but] the first priority was the Lakers", Garnett said. The Lakers who fell to 23-27 had won six of their previous seven games and had moved three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Wilson Chandler scored 24 points off the bench and Kenneth Faried added 21 as the Denver Nuggets (32-18) destroyed the Chicago Bulls (29-20) 128-96 last night at the Pepsi Center for their 8th straight win. Chandler converted 8/9 (89%) from the floor including a perfect 5/5 from 3 point range. Faried didn't wait for the All-Star dunk contest to put on a big show. Amidst a series of rim rattling jams he hit 9/10 (90%) overall and collected a team high 12 rebounds. Ty Lawson contributed 16 points and dished out a team high 12 assists. Danilo Gallinari chipped in with 15 points and Andre Igoudala scored 14. Denver hit the cenurry mark by the end of the third quarter and shot a sizzling 58% from the field including 9/19 (47%) from beyond the arc. The Nuggets also sank 19/23 (83%) from the free throw line, outrebounded the Bulls 46-34, recorded 29 assists and committed just 10 turnovers. It was a tough night for the league's top defensive team trailing by as many as 31 points. Chicago shot only 42% overall including 10/27 (37%) from 3 point range and committed 16 turnovers. Daequan Cook came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 19 points but shot just 6/16 (38%) overall and 4/12 (33%) from beyond the arc. Carlos Boozer added 18 and Nate Robinson contributed 14. Denver has won 15 of the last 18 since January 1st torching Chicago for 37 points above their seasonal defensive average. Faried said he was more inspired by the television cameras at the Pepsi Center on this night than the chance to be in the spotlight during the All-Star weekend. He said he feels nobody's noticing the Nuggets as they round into shape following a tough start to the season in which they played 17 of their first 23 on the road, something no NBA team had endured in more than a quarter century.