The Boston Celtics have overcome a slew of injuries to remain a factor in the Eastern Conference.
They also withstood three overtimes to beat the Denver Nuggets last week.
The Celtics look to continue their strong play Tuesday night when they emerge from the All-Star break and attempt to come away with a rare win at Denver.
Boston (28-24) lost Rajon Rondo (torn ACL), Jared Sullinger (back surgery) and Leandro Barbosa (torn ACL) to season-ending injuries within the last month. The Celtics seemed headed in the wrong direction with a season-high six-game slide that culminated with Rondo’s injury during a 123-111 double-overtime loss in Atlanta on Jan. 25.
They’ve since turned things around, winning eight of nine – including victories over Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers before entering the break with a 71-69 win over Chicago on Wednesday.
“I know everybody thought we were going to tank because Rondo and Sully went out, but we’ve been fighting for those guys and ourselves. And that’s all you can ask,” center Kevin Garnett said. “With that, I’m pleased. I’m not pleased with where we are (compared) to where we could be. But with everything that’s been involved this year, we’ll take it.”
Garnett and the Celtics were surely pleased after a 118-114 triple-overtime victory at home against the Nuggets (33-21) on Feb. 10.
Boston is looking to sweep the season series for the first time since 2003-04, but it has lost three straight and seven of eight in Denver.
Garnett, averaging 17.7 points and 10.2 rebounds over the past 10 games, is hoping to be rested for this season-high five-game road trip. He played just over 6 minutes in Sunday’s All-Star game in Houston.
“In the back of my mind you have Denver Tuesday, Lakers Wednesday,” Garnett told the team’s official website. “I was just thinking about the schedule and having to face these teams second half.
“Mentally you have to be ready for Denver. Their pace is incredible, especially when they’re at home. They’re 22-3 at home.”
Garnett had 20 points, 18 rebounds and six assists in a season-high 47 minutes against the Nuggets last week. Paul Pierce is averaging 22.0 points over the last four matchups, getting a triple-double in the most recent with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.
The Nuggets are certainly rested following the break since they didn’t have an All-Star despite sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference and ranking third in the league with 105.1 points per game.
They may have been looking forward to some time off, however, since they followed a season-high nine-game winning streak by dropping three in a row.
Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (illness) and Andre Iguodala (neck) missed the last two games, including a 119-108 loss at Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“Without Gallinari and Iguodala, we’re down two of our better defenders. There’s no question that Gallo and A.I. give us length and some experienced defensive-minded guys,” coach George Karl said.
Gallinari is averaging 20.9 points over his last seven games.
Ty Lawson is averaging 28.0 points and 9.0 assists while shooting 62.3 percent – 9 for 14 from 3-point range – during the losing streak. He had a game-high 29 points against the Celtics on Feb. 10.