David Zalubowski/Associated Press
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Ty Lawson started the second half of the NBA season the same way he closed the first – on an offensive tear.
Lawson and Danilo Gallinari each scored 26 points, and the Denver Nuggets snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Boston Celtics 97-90 Tuesday night.
Lawson has averaged 27.5 points in his last four games, well above his season average of 15.8 going into the game against the Celtics.
“I’m just attacking, not thinking about whether I should shoot it, not second-guessing my shot,” Lawson said. “I’m just trusting myself, and it’s been working out for me.”
And it’s also working for the Nuggets, who gained a split of their season series with Boston after losing in triple overtime to the Celtics the week before. The loss to Boston had ended the Nuggets’ season-high nine game winning streak and marked the start of a three-game skid leading up to the All-Star break.
“(Tuesday), we just didn’t close out any quarter very well,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “End of the first, end of the half, the end of the third killed us. They went on their little run to end the game.
“Everybody came into this game wanting to win it, and that may have gotten in our way. Each guy wanted to win it instead of trusting the team. We had a great first half; it got away from us in the third and fourth.”
Lawson noted that Gallinari (sinus infection) and Andre Iguodala (neck strain), who contributed defensively despite not scoring, returned after missing the previous two games to help make the difference in the rematch with the Celtics.
“Everybody was back,” Lawson said. “And it shows how much we’ve matured as a team, to come back from the All-Star break and beat a team like that.”
Andre Miller and Kosta Koufos added 11 points apiece, and Kenneth Faried had 16 rebounds to go with his seven points for the Nuggets, who beat Boston for the eighth time in nine games in Denver, including the last four in a row.
“They’re one of the better defensive teams in the league and you’ve got to figure out ways to get baskets,” Miller said. “We didn’t always shoot the ball the way we wanted to, but we found ways to get some easy baskets, and we got to the free throw line. And we finished off the game the right way.”
Jeff Green had 20 points off the bench to lead the Celtics, who have been playing well despite losing Rajon Rondo (torn ACL), Jared Sullinger (back surgery) and Leandro Barbosa (torn ACL) to season-ending injuries in the past month.
Avery Bradley added 17 points, and Courtney Lee had 15 for the Celtics, who are still looking for their first win on the road against a Western Conference team this season.
“We got stagnant with ball movement,” said Boston’s Paul Pierce. “We just didn’t make the adjustment. A little too much one-on-one. On the other end, we didn’t get key stops. We fouled a little bit too much. Every crucial possession that we needed a stop, we didn’t get the stop that we needed, and they were able to pull away.”
Behind much of the night, the Nuggets stretched their lead to 78-70 going into the fourth quarter when Corey Brewer made layups on successive possessions.
The Celtics fought back to tie it at 84-all on Bradley’s 3-pointer with 5:37 left to play, but Gallinari hit a clutch 3-pointer, and Lawson added a basket on a putback.
After Kevin Garnett missed a pair of free throws, Faried grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to give the Nuggets a 93-86 lead with 2:35 left.
Boston got a driving layup from Green and a pair of free throws from Jason Terry to cut Denver’s lead to 94-90 with 1:09 left.
After Faried missed a pair free throws, Garnett missed a short, contested jumper, and Gallinari rebounded for Denver, getting the ball out to Lawson. He was fouled and made both free throws to give the Nuggets a six-point cushion with 20.7 seconds remaining.
The Celtics didn’t score again.
Boston had pulled to within four points late in the third quarter when Denver’s JaVale McGee was called for goal-tending on Green’s 3-pointer. That cut into a lead that Denver had built with a 9-2 run punctuated by a 3-pointer by Gallinari and a swooping one-handed dunk by McGee.
Lee hit a 17-foot jumper as the second-quarter buzzer sounded, offsetting a 3-pointer by Lawson moments earlier and giving the Celtics a 50-49 halftime lead.
Boston led by as many as nine points after going on a 12-2 burst that culminated in Lee’s three-point play for a 36-27 lead with 7:08 left in the quarter. Denver answered with a 12-3 run, pulling into a 39-all tie when Miller drained a 3-pointer and Lawson drove for layups on back-to-back possessions.