After controlling the boards and slowing the pace in the first half, the tiring Celtics couldn't keep up down the stretch. Denver outscored Boston by nine points in the third quarter, doing most of its damage when Kevin Garnett was resting.
Without their only inside presence, the Celtics just couldn't keep the relentless Nuggets out of the paint. Denver totaled 42 points in the lane on the night, but it also did damage by drawing the Boston defense toward the rim before kicking the ball out for a few back-breaking threes.
Although the Celtics kept the run-and-gun Nuggets under 100 points, Denver's superior work on the glass and more aggressive offensive style eventually wore down a thin Boston team.
Denver's 36 free-throw attempts clearly showed which team was more committed to pushing the pace and forcing the ball toward the rim. When Boston's jump-shooters cooled in the second half, the Nuggets pulled away.
The Celtics fell to 28-25 in defeat, but there's hardly any shame in losing to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Denver improved to 34-21 overall and 23-3 at home.