Celtics-Nuggets Preview

The Boston Celtics are making a statement on a Western

Conference road trip. They made a big one in their last game at the

Pepsi Center – even without Kevin Garnett.

Garnett is back for this visit for the Celtics as they try to

sweep their four-game trip Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

Boston (35-18) went into the All-Star break after losing five of

eight to see its lead atop the Atlantic Division cut to four games.

The Celtics, though, have seemingly found their championship form

in three impressive wins to start this trip.

“People can call us old, call us whatever,” coach Doc Rivers

said. “We’re just going to keep trying to get better.”

Garnett was out with a muscle strain in his right knee the last

time Boston played Denver (36-19), but it didn’t work to the

Nuggets’ advantage. The Celtics handed the Nuggets their worst home

loss since Feb. 2, 1998, with a 114-76 victory.

The 38-point margin of defeat tied for the second-biggest home

loss since Denver joined the NBA in 1976.

“I think it was a championship team (that) wanted to kick

somebody’s butt,” said Nuggets coach George Karl after the loss in

which his team trailed 60-37 at halftime.

The Nuggets will get to see Garnett after he made his first six

shots and scored 16 points in a 96-76 win at Portland on Friday.

He’s increased his scoring output on every game this trip.

Garnett should be a bigger factor on the defensive end Sunday

since he has helped the Celtics slow down Carmelo Anthony the three

times the power forward has played against the Nuggets with Boston.

Anthony, among the league leaders with a 29.3 scoring average, is

averaging 19.3 on 38.7 percent shooting against the Celtics with

Garnett.

The Denver superstar was magnificent with 40 points in a 118-116

overtime win at league-leading Cleveland on Thursday, but made 7 of

20 shots for 23 points the next night in a 107-97 loss at lowly

Washington.

“I missed shots,” Anthony said. “Shots that I made (Thursday)

night, I didn’t make tonight.”

The Nuggets had 25 assists and five turnovers in the win over

the Cavaliers before finishing with 12 of each against the

Wizards.

“We have a selfish disposition at times,” Karl said. “Sometimes

it might come from fatigue, sometimes it might come from

complacency. Can’t beat anybody with 12 assists. It’s just a

joke.”

The Nuggets will have to try to cool off Ray Allen, who is

averaging 22.5 points on 65.5 percent shooting in his last two

games for Boston. Allen is averaging 23.5 on 53.2 percent shooting

in four games against Denver since joining the Celtics.

“He’s just playing well. He’s relaxed … he was making shots

and it was good for us,” Rivers said.

Celtics newcomers Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry are not

expected to suit up until Tuesday’s home game against New York.

Nuggets forward Chris Andersen missed Friday’s game with back

spasms and is day-to-day.