THE NITTY GRITTY
Early foul trouble for Jared Sullinger pressed Kris Humphries into action and he responded with his finest performance in a Boston uniform, totaling a season-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block over 23:32. Humphries was a team-best plus-26 in plus/minus and helped the Celtics fend off the second-half surges of the Nuggets. Boston put five players in double figures, including four members of the first unit, with Jordan Crawford totaling a starters-best 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting over 33:43. Boston led by as many as 27 in the first half and 20 at the intermission, shooting 51.8 percent overall. Ty Lawson scored a team-high 20 points for Denver but departed in the second half with a left hamstring injury.
The Celtics gave themselves a comfortable cushion over the first 4½ minutes, building a two-touchdown lead before the Nuggets even got on the scoreboard. Boston connected on seven of its first nine shots (while Denver missed its first eight) and led 14-0 before J.J. Hickson drew a shooting foul and broke up the shutout with 7:20 to play in the first quarter. Boston didn't relent and Jeff Green's 30-foot 3-pointer near the end of the frame had Boston out front 39-15 after one.
FENDING OFF THE NUGGETS
The Nuggets did eventually rally, starting the third quarter as strong as Boston had started the first. It took less than five minutes for Boston's lead to shrink from 20 to 4, and it was a one-possession game a couple times later in the frame. Unfazed, the Celtics rode the Humphries/Crawford combo and pushed their lead back to 10 before the end of the quarter.
Crawford had his left wrist taped up at Thursday's practice, but clearly it wasn't an issue. He hit some big shots as Denver rallied in the third quarter to keep the charging Nuggets at arm's length, and he also added a team-high eight assists on the night. ... Crash Wallace, Part II: OK, so it wasn't his filthy turn-back-the-clock jam from Tuesday's win over the Bucks, but Gerald Wallace had another highlight-caliber dunk on Friday. This time he cut backdoor and Vitor Faverani found him for a fourth-quarter slam. ... Another great night valuing the ball for Boston: The Celtics turned it over just 10 times leading to a mere 11 points. ... Boston had 25 assists on 43 field goals. ... Sullinger got hit with two early fouls and that likely contributed to one of his quieter outings in recent games. He finished with eight points on 4-of-13 shooting, but was a team-worst minus-12.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (9-12) have won two straight and five of their past seven while remaining on top of the Atlantic Division. The Celtics travel to New York Saturday for two games in the Empire State against the Knicks (Sunday) and Nets (Tuesday). Reunion week continues Wednesday when former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers visit TD Garden.