Rondo Records Triple-Double, Celtics Open Homestand With Win Over Nuggets

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The Celtics Need More 'Vintage Performances' From Paul Pierce

As we mentioned on Tuesday in SB Nation's NBA Power Rankings, the story to watch with the Celtics is Paul Pierce's health. He's been nowhere near himself this year, and the Celtics have struggled because of it. Was Pierce just getting old, or is it true that we was simply hurt then and is now healthy?

If last night's game is any indication, the latter might be closest to the truth. Pierce put on what SB Nation's CelticsBlog dubbed a "vintage performance" last night against the Nuggets, dropping 27 points on just 16 shots in a blowout win. It looked a lot like a performance that were common in the 2008 playoffs, when Pierce led his team to the title. Sure, the Nuggets are struggling as they cope with the potential loss of head coach George Karl, but they're still one of the league's best teams, so clearly Pierce hit a gear he didn't have earlier in the season.

In short, as CelticsBlog writes, it was a performance that made Celtics fans remember the player Pierce once was. 

But boy, did last night bring me back. It wasn't just the fact that he went toe-to-toe with Carmelo Anthony, and (in my eyes won the matchup) scored 27 points. It's how he did it. And it's always been about how he does it. Between getting out on the fast break and turning Rondo's assists into easy buckets, the put-the-shoulder-down relentless drives to the hoop - often culminating in a foul, a difficult layup and a foul, or a difficult layup and a lack of a call - and the myriad of step-back jumpers that are virtually unguardable, Pierce's game has been captivating to watch.     

What's left unspoken in the post is that the Celtics need more of these "vintage performances" to win in the playoffs. It's probably unspoken because it's really damn obvious. As Pierce goes, so do the Celtics. 

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Celtics Open Homestand Against Northwest Division Leading Nuggets

Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce knocked down 10-of-16 shots en route to a 27-point effort, as the Celtics got their six-game homestand off on the right foot with a thorough 113-99 drubbing of the Nuggets.

Kevin Garnett checked in with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Boston, which had its four-game winning streak snapped at Utah on Monday. Rajon Rondo handed out 15 points to go with 11 points, while Ray Allen and Tony Allen tallied 16 and 13 points, respectively, for the victors.

The Celtics, who clinched a playoff spot with the win, have a 10 1/2-game lead on Toronto in the Atlantic Division with 11 games to play. They are still tied with Atlanta for the third seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

Carmelo Anthony poured in 32 points for the Nuggets, who have dropped four of their last six, including a 109-104 setback at the lowly Knicks on Tuesday. J.R. Smith chipped in 21 points in defeat.

Coupled with this loss and Utah's win over Toronto on Wednesday, Denver fell into a tie with the Jazz atop the Northwest Division. The pair sits a half- game behind the Mavericks for second place in the Western Conference.

Pierce's 14 points guided the Celtics to a 30-27 lead after 12 minutes.

The lead changed hands twice in the second before Boston took control via a 10-2 run. Tony Allen's slam off an assist from Rondo capped the spurt for a 59-46 lead just before halftime, which ended with Boston holding a 61-51 edge.

The margin reached 21 in the third, as Rondo's free throw capped a 13-2 stretch just past the midway point of the quarter for a 79-58 cushion.

After trading buckets, Denver scored 20 of the quarter's final 26 points to cut its deficit to single digits. Anthony had 12 during the run and Smith's buzzer-beating three made it 87-80 heading to the fourth.

The rally did little to sway Boston's confidence, as Pierce's three-point play with 6:46 remaining pushed the lead to 104-87, and the Celtics cruised from there.

The Nuggets have three games left on their road trip and will be without head coach George Karl for the entire trek. There are reports Karl, currently undergoing cancer treatment, may miss the start of the postseason...Denver, which next plays in Toronto on Friday, has lost 11 of its last 13 visits to Boston...The Celtics, who have won four straight at home, next host the Kings on Friday...Chauncey Billups ended with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets, who received 13 points from Arron Afflalo.

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