|The cold truth: Paul Pierce leads Celtics to 7th straight in epic fashion||02.10.13 at 9:15 pm ET|
The two hottest teams in the NBA rewarded hearty New England basketball fans with the game of the year in professional basketball. In a game with countless ebbs and flows, the Celtics outlasted the Nuggets, 118-114, in triple overtime Sunday night at TD Garden, earning their season-high seventh straight win in the process. The Celtics also ended Denver’s nine-game win streak, with Rajon Rondo in attendance.
In 54 spectacular minutes, Paul Pierce finished with a triple double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing 14 assists. But with a chance to tie the game, his second free throw rattled in and out with 32.5 seconds left in double overtime. Ty Lawson hit jumper to put Denver up three. Pierce came down and drained a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to send the game into triple overtime.
After missing six straight 3-pointers, Jason Terry drilled a straightaway trey with 1:33 left in triple OT to put the Celtics up 116-113. Terry finished with 26 points off the bench. Sunday marked Boston’s ninth overtime game this season, matching a franchise record for a season (1950-51 and 1953-54). Kevin Garnett was big on the boards in 47 minutes, hauling in 18 rebounds to go with 20 points.
The Celtics were 3.6 seconds from their seventh straight win when the officials overturned a Nuggets turnover out of bounds under the Celtics basket. Given a second chance, Lawson hit the game-tying layup off the glass to send the game into overtime.
There were very few empty seats in TD Garden as Celtics fans braved the elements and lack of public transportation to get to the game just 24 hours after a state of emergency was lifted in the wake of the “Nemo” blizzard.
The Nuggets entered the game with an NBA-best nine-game winning streak, beating the Cavaliers Saturday night. The Nuggets (104.8) entered the game as the third-highest-scoring team in the NBA, with only the Thunder (106.6) and Rockets (106.0) scoring more per game.
With the NBA’s hottest team on short rest after getting from Cleveland at 3 a.m., the Celtics took full advantage. Behind the sharpshooting of Pierce and the ice-cold shooting of the Nuggets, Boston raced out to a 12-0 lead. But the Nuggets came back and scored the next nine points to get back into the game.
But the biggest impact on the opening quarter was Boston’s defense, forcing seven Denver turnovers, leading to 14 points as the Celtics took a 29-19 lead after 12 minutes. Terry hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter to give Boston its 10-point lead heading into the second.
Terry continued that momentum into the second quarter, helping Boston maintain its double-digit lead. Terry scored five in the second quarter and finished with 10 at the halftime break. The Nuggets went on an 8-2 run late in the second quarter to close Boston’s lead to four, 48-44, before Leandro Barbosa converted a layup late to give the Celtics a 50-44 halftime lead.
With star Andre Iguodala out for the remainder of the game with a right cervical strain, the Nuggets tried to withstand a Celtics three-point barrage in the third quarter as Boston hit four 3-pointers and built their lead to 78-70 after three.
Andre Miller‘s spectacular spin move in the lane led to a layup with 9:54 left to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip.
But Terry responded moments later to put the Celtics back on top, 80-78, with 9:40 left. The Celtics pulled away to lead, 87-80, only to have the Nuggets respond again. Faried was fouled by Kevin Garnett and converted a three-point play with 2:34 left. The Nuggets had a chance for their first lead of the night. Faried grabbed his own offensive rebound off a miss and fed Ty Lawson for the go-ahead jumper with 1:43 left. But Faried took a technical foul and Terry tied the game with a free throw with no time running off the clock.
Pierce drove the lane but had the ball go off him and out of bounds, giving the ball to the Nuggets. But a video review reversed the call and gave the ball back to Boston.
Green hit the go-ahead jumper with 47.9 seconds left, putting Boston up, 92-90. Kenneth Faried missed two free throws with 5.4 seconds left with a chance to tie the game.
The Nuggets, after two misses by Faried, had one final chance. Andre Miller grabbed the rebound and appeared to have a chance at a layup. The ball was knocked out of bounds, with the initial ruling of Celtics’ ball overruled upon replay and the Nuggets were given the ball with 3.6 seconds left. Miller inbounded to Lawson on the wing. Lawson drove into the lane and banked in the game-tying shot with 0.8 seconds left. Terry’s desperate three was way off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
With the C’s down three, a driving Garnett found Green in the left baseline and Green, like he did in regulation, hit the clutch shot. His 3-pointer with 23.8 seconds left in overtime tied the game, 99-99. Garnett did it again in the second overtime, hitting a bank shot with 58.8 seconds left to conclude a four-point run and tie the game, 103-103. But Danilo Gallinari came down and hit a jumper with 37 seconds left to put the Nuggets up 105-103.
The Celtics have little time to rest. They left after the game for Charlotte and a Monday night road game against the Bobcats.
For more coverage from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.