for this game

'Big Three' take over as Celtics dominate Nuggets

Nov 8, 2007 - 4:50 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics continue to show what a difference one season can make.

Kevin Garnett scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Paul Pierce added 26 points as the Celtics crushed the Denver Nuggets, 119-93, Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

Garnett was three assists shy of his first triple-double with his new club and Ray Allen added 22 points for the Celtics, who have opened the season with three wins for the first time since 1999-2000.

"Everyone really just stayed in the game plan, they moved the ball, we tried to crowd the paint as much as possible," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "(Allen) Iverson still got there. Too many turnovers for us, too many fouls for us, other than that, not a lot to complain about."

Boston's "Big Three" of Garnett, Pierce and Allen combined to shoot 28-of-41 from the field to power the blowout - a stark contrast from last season when the club sunk to the second-worst record in the league with Pierce the only superstar on the squad.

"The focus every night is going to be on me, Kevin and Ray," Pierce said. "So these guys are well aware of that, they're ready. They're more than ready. That's why you see Kendrick (Perkins) open underneath for wide-open baskets. That's why (Rajon) Rondo gets wide-open layups.

"We are just scratching the surface on what we could be. We are no where where we want to be, but we are getting closer each and every day."

The Celtics shot 72 percent in the first half, surging to a 77-38 lead at the break. The 77 points fell eight points shy of the franchise mark for most points in a half, set twice - both times against Denver - in 1981-82 and 1982-83, respectively.

Boston never trailed and took the lead for good when Garnett hit his first field goal of the night - a 17-footer with 11:14 remaining in the first quarter. Denver got as close as 14-13 on Kenyon Martin's layup with 7:25 remaining in the opening period.

"Doc's biggest test for us is to carry it (the work) over from practice to in here. We didn't finish the game as well as we know we can," Garnett said. "But you have to understand repetition is repetition is repetition, that's the thing Doc is preaching to us. Defensively, we keep telling ourselves we want to be known as a defensive team."

The Celtics outscored the Nuggets, 24-9, to end the quarter and take control by 16 points after one. Boston's dominance continued in the second quarter as they reeled off the first nine points of the period to cap a 22-4 run.

The Celtics bettered their first-quarter output by one in the second, outscoring the Nuggets, 39-16, to further blow the game open.

The lead reached a game-high 41 on three occasions in the third, the final time coming when Pierce dunked off Garnett's pass to make it 97-56 with 3:02 remaining in the quarter.

"They beat the (stuff) out of us tonight, but you take your hat off to them because they played extremely well tonight," said Carmelo Anthony, who scored just 11 points for Denver.

Pierce, Garnett and Allen came out of the game for good with 9:01 remaining in the fourth to a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd.

"We made the right plays all night and starting off the game," Allen said. "It's important that this team knows what we have out there on the floor. You don't have to take tough shots early in the game. Work the offense, make them play defense, and we'll get good shots."

Adding insult to the Nuggets' misery was the loss of Nene, their first player off the bench, to a sprained left thumb in the second quarter. X-rays were negative and an MRI will be scheduled in the near future.

Iverson scored 22 points for the Nuggets, who lost one night after blowing a 15-point lead en route to a loss against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

"From the start, they jumped right on us and they were able to take care of business," Iverson said. "You have a couple of games like this throughout the year that you have to deal with, and we are just glad it's early rather than late in the season."

"I don't think I should make any excuses for my team," Denver coach George Karl said. "I think you just have to say the Celtics won. They played better than we did. They played more together than we did. And the fundamental nature of playing hard went out the window the last couple nights.

"If we don't get back to playing hard, you can't beat good teams without playing hard. They came out with a spirit and energy and took our spirit and energy away from us."

The Celtics also suffered an injury when James Posey came up with lower back spasms midway through the second quarter and did not return.