Jeff Green (8) and Jared Sullinger put up a wall for Randy Foye (4) and the Nuggets Friday night. (AP)
This time, the Celtics found a way to hold their 27-point first half lead.
Jordan Crawford scored 22 while Avery Bradley and Kris Humphries each added 18 to lead a balanced attack as the Celtics raced out to huge first half lead and held on for a 106-98 win over the Denver Nuggets Friday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green scored 15 while Brandon Bass added 14.
The win improves the Celtics to 9-12 on the season, which is still good for first place in the underwhelming Atlantic Division.
The Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better start than the one they got Friday night against the Nuggets.
Led by six points from Bradley, the Celtics raced out to a 14-0 lead to open the game. Bradley finished the first quarter with 13 points and the Celtics made 17-of-26 shots (65.4 percent) to open a huge 39-15 lead over a Nuggets team that entered the game 11-7 and in third place in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.
The Celtics built their lead to 27 when Vitor Faveriani hit a three to open the second quarter.
From that point, the Nuggets began to claw their way back into the game, outscoring Boston 29-25 in the second quarter. Still, thanks to back-to-back dunks from Humphries and Bradley to close the first half, the Celtics led by 20 at the half, 64-44.
Randy Foye hit a three to start a 9-0 Denver run to open the second half. JJ Hickson converted a layup that cut the lead down to 11, 64-53, in the first two minutes of the half. Ty Lawson drilled a pull-up jumper with 7:42 left in the quarter as Denver capped a 20-4 spurt that cut Boston’s lead down to four, 68-64.
Denver would draw to within three twice in the third, the last time coming on a Timofey Mozgov dunk with 3:31 left in the quarter that cut Boston’s lead to 76-73.
Crawford’s three with 39.5 seconds remaining and the shot clock winding down gave the Celtics a 106-96 lead and sealed Boston’s ninth win of the season.
The Celtics avoided repeating last season’s epic 27-point collapse in Atlanta. On Jan. 25, 2013, the Celtics led the Hawks, 48-21, in the second quarter but couldn’t hold on in the second half, losing 123-111, in double-overtime. That was also the last game Rajon Rondo played, as he tore his right ACL late in the game and has been out of action since.