Celtics, Nuggets set for another showdown

It was a little over a week ago that the Boston Celtics prevailed over the Denver Nuggets in three overtimes at TD Garden.

The two sides open the second half against each other, but the stage shifts to the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night, where the Nuggets have gone 22-3, the second-best home mark in the NBA.

On Feb. 11, after a massive snowstorm blanketed the New England area, the Celtics won their seventh straight and ended Denver's nine-game winning streak.

Paul Pierce had a triple-double for the Celtics although their undefeated run came to a screeching halt the following night in Charlotte to the Bobcats. Boston won its last game before the All-Star break, a 71-69 home battle with the Chicago Bulls.

The C's needed the All-Star break just to take stock of what they have on the roster. All-Star Rajon Rondo is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Same goes for his backup, Leandro Barbosa. Rookie Jared Sullinger just cracked the starting lineup when he needed season-ending back surgery.

Rest was the order for the Celtics over the break. They only had one All Star, starter Kevin Garnett, and he successfully lobbied for an easy night in Houston. Garnett, in his 15th All-Star Game, played just over six minutes and didn't see the floor in the last three quarters.

"To be honest, what was on my mind was getting the proper rest and enjoying myself," said Garnett. "In the back of my mind you have Denver Tuesday, Lakers Wednesday. I was just thinking about the schedule and having to face these teams second half."

The Celtics start out on a five-game western trip, then head home for one game and are back on the road for two more.

The hiatus came at a great time for the Nuggets. The loss in Boston started a three-game slide, all on the road. After Tuesday's home game against the Celtics, Denver heads back east for games against the Washington Wizards and Bobcats.

The Nuggets are fifth in the Western Conference and 6 1/2 games out of first in the Northwest Division. This team has played very well in spurts this season, but is just 11-18 outside the Rocky Mountains.

Denver did not have a representative in the All-Star Game, but did have the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.

Kenneth Faried, who also participated, unsuccessfully, in the Dunk Contest, tallied 40 points and 10 rebounds in the victory for Team Chuck.

"I came out with the intent to put on a performance. But I wasn't thinking MVP type of performance," admitted Faried. "I was just thinking about winning the game and enjoying myself. And pretty much enjoying the game. I love to play."

The Celtics won this season's only matchup, but the Nuggets have taken three straight and seven of their last eight at home in this series.