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Pierce scores 38 as Celtics extend win streak to four

Dec 16, 2006 - 5:22 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce played his customary starring role but got some unexpected help from his supporting cast.

Pierce scored 38 points, Tony Allen added 30 and Al Jefferson 28 as the Boston Celtics extended their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 119-114 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

With starting forward Ryan Gomes a late scratch due to a right calf injury, the Celtics needed to get offense from some other sources.

Allen and Jefferson answered the call, helping to overcome a 42-point night by the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony.

"Obviously Tony Allen was phenomenal: 48 minutes," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We made a switch with him on Carmelo and I told Tony, 'The guy had 42 points, shot over 50 percent and I thought you did an amazing job of guarding him.' That's just one guy that is just so good right now."

Anthony scored 16 points in the final 12 minutes, helping his team put up 40 in the quarter and close a 19-point second-half deficit to three on three occasions.

Allen made 11-of-13 shots from the floor in his career-high 48 minutes while Jefferson hit 13-of-19 shots and also pulled down 10 rebounds.

"Where did this go wrong - I think the first quarter, we got off to a slow start," Anthony said. "They got hot and they hit some shots and Tony Allen had a great game, Al had a great game, Paul even had quite a great game. You got three guys having a great game like that, it's pretty hard to beat a team."

In snapping a four-game losing streak at home, the Celtics raced to a 64-47 halftime lead and fended off repeated late rallies by the Nuggets.

Boston carried an 85-74 advantage into the final quarter before Anthony brought Denver back, and in the process took over the league's scoring lead from Allen Iverson, who remains in limbo while waiting for the Philadelphia 76ers to trade him

Anthony scored eight points to get Denver within 89-85, but Allen answered with a three-point play to restore the lead to seven.

Jefferson threw down a thunderous dunk and Allen followed with his own dunk off a steal to put the Celtics ahead, 101-93, with 4:00 left. Jefferson scored 16 points in the second half on 7-of-9 shooting.

"My post play helps, we have a lot of outside shooters, so when I get going it opens it up," said the 21-year-old Jefferson, who has been rumored to be involved in a potential deal for Iverson. "I am getting great shots and I am making them. Paul, Wally (Szczerbiak) and them are doing a great job at getting me the ball and everything is just falling into place right now."

Pierce seemingly put the Nuggets away for good when he nailed a 3-pointer for a 106-95 advantage with 2:36 left, but J.R. Smith hit three 3-pointers - including two in six seconds - to slice a 12-point deficit to 114-108 with 27 seconds to go.

Allen finally ended the suspense by burying two free throws to push the lead back to eight.

"I think he (Allen) is playing with a lot more confidence," Pierce said. "He is out there and he knows he is going to play so now he is just playing basketball free and getting it done. I just told him to go out there and just play aggressive and play hard. He is our defensive stopper and he is going to have a lot of tough matchups but at the same time he needs to be aggressive on offense."

Andre Miller scored 18 points and Smith added 15 for Denver, which fell to 6-28 in Boston.

"We never got in control of Allen's penetration, he made a couple of threes that we overreacted to, and Jefferson was probably the most impressive game I've ever seen him play," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I told them at halftime, if we try to outshoot the Boston Celtics we're the stupidest team in the NBA."

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