The Boston Celtics are one of just a few teams Andre Iguodala has faced at least 30 times in his career and the swingman will take his first crack at them in a Denver Nuggets uniform Sunday night at TD Garden.
Iguodala, a longtime Sixer, was dealt to the Nuggets in the offseason and is averaging 14.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 30 career games against the one-time Atlantic Division rival. He is posting averages of 13.5 points, 5.4 boards and 4.7 assists with Denver, which is riding a nine-game winning streak and in the midst of a four-game road trip.
Denver got the trek off to a good start with Saturday's 111-103 victory over the improving Cleveland Cavaliers as Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Kenneth Faried added 17 points with seven boards. Iguodala had 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds for the Nuggets, who last won nine in a row during a 10-game run in 2004-05.
"We're going to try and shock the world and become the first team to win a championship without an All-Star," Denver coach George Karl said. "There are only about 10 true superstars in the NBA, I think, but I believe Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried are in the next 40 players."
The Nuggets, who played just their fourth road game in the new year, are winners in 14 of their last 16 games and sit 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the third seed in the West. They are 11-15 away from the Rockies and will also visit Toronto and Brooklyn.
In other news, Gallinari is averaging 19.7 ppg in his last 17 games, scoring 20-plus points eight times over that stretch.
Who would have thought the Celtics would be playing so well without their top distributor, All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo?
Done for the season with a knee injury, Rondo's absence left many to believe Boston would be in trouble. However, the Celtics are 6-0 without Rondo and are coming off Thursday's 116-95 home triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul Pierce led the way with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Celtics, who shot 53 percent from the field and led by as many as 32.
"Whenever you match up against the Lakers, it always feels good to give them the old fashioned beat down at your house," said Pierce. "It doesn't matter what direction this team is going, there will always be a rivalry. You know everybody's always going to watch and it feels good to win like that."
Jeff Green scored 19 points off the bench, while Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett each posted 15 points. Garnett recorded his 25,000th career point and is three games shy of tying Buck Williams for 11th on the all-time games played list.
"It's typical Celtics basketball. They all just put their hard hats on and they go out, go hard and figure things out," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who posted 27 points. "It always just seems like whenever their backs are against the wall, you know that's when you really see the best from them."
The Celtics will try to extend their home winning streak to six games Sunday and are 18-9 in Beantown this season. Boston is 10-3 at home against the Western Conference. After hosting the Nuggets, the Celtics will play six of seven games on the road.
Boston lost the only meeting with Denver a season ago, but is 18-3 in the past 21 as the host in this series.