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Denver is just 17-19 on the road with four games left on the current trip.
The Celtics' strong inside presence and attacking style were just two positive signs. The win was their fourth straight at home, where they began a season-long six-game homestand in 12 days, culminating with a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 4.
"Whether it's home or away, I think it's time to get momentum," Rondo said.
Boston has reached the playoffs in all three seasons since Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce to form the Big Three. It won its 17th NBA title in 2008 and was eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Orlando Magic in 2009.
The Celtics led 30-27 after the first quarter in which Pierce outscored Anthony 14-11 and stretched that to 61-51 at halftime as seldom-used guard Tony Allen had 10 points and helped hold Anthony to three in the second quarter.
"I thought Tony Allen, honestly, was the star of the game," Rivers said. "He turned the game around for us with his energy, with his defense."
The Celtics began the third quarter with a 18-7 run that gave them a 79-58 lead. But the Nuggets scrambled back, starting with a three-point play by Anthony. Trailing 85-69, they scored eight straight points, six by Anthony.
Michael Finley stopped the surge with a basket that made it 87-77, before Smith hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
NOTES: Utah beat Toronto to tie Denver for third in the West. ... The Nuggets' magic number to clinch a playoff berth remained at three. ... Ray Allen scored 16 points and moved ahead of David Robinson into 30th place in career points with 20,794. Robinson scored 20,790. ... The Nuggets failed to score 100 points for the fourth time in five games after entering the game averaging 107.5, third in the NBA.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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