With his scoring sidekick on the bench in street clothes, Paul Pierce had no problem picking up the slack.

Pierce had 45 points and almost outscored the entire Denver team in the first half as the Celtics beat the Nuggets, 77-58, Friday night in Boston.

"He was absolutely superb," Boston Coach Jim O'Brien said. "He was very hot right from the beginning and I couldn't call enough plays to get the ball in his hands."

Boston, minus Antoine Walker for the second straight game because of a sprained right knee, has won five of six overall and eight in a row against Denver.

The Nuggets, the lowest-scoring team in the league, wound up tied for the 11th-fewest point total in NBA history since the 24-second shot clock was implemented in 1954-55.

Less than two minutes before halftime, Pierce had 28 points to the Nuggets' 27. Denver had 29 points at the break, one more than Pierce.

* NETS 89, LAKERS 83: Kerry Kittles had 17 points to lead a balanced scoring attack and hit a pivotal three-pointer with 40 seconds to lead visiting New Jersey. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak that was the Nets' longest of the season.

Kenyon Martin had 18 points for New Jersey, which had six players in double figures.

Shaquille O'Neal had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, but missed four of six free throws in the final 1:51.

Kittles made a three-pointer to put the Nets up 85-83 with 40 seconds remaining after O'Neal had just made one of two free throws to give Los Angeles a one-point led.

O'Neal then missed two free throws, Martin made a pair from the line for New Jersey, then the Lakers' Robert Horry missed a three-pointer and Martin scored on a fast break.

* SPURS 91, JAZZ 90: Tim Duncan made a turnaround jump shot over Karl Malone as time expired as visiting San Antonio beat Utah for the 11th straight time.

Duncan, who had 29 points and 17 rebounds, backed in along the baseline against Malone and got the final shot off just before the buzzer. It went in as the red lights around the backboard lit up and the Spurs celebrated their fifth win in sixth games.

Referee Bernie Fryer, who called a technical on Utah's Matt Harpring as the Spurs rallied in the final minutes, looked at several replays before ruling that the shot counted, drawing a loud round of boos from the sellout crowd.

* PISTONS 98, ROCKETS 74: Cliff Robinson scored 20 points and a duel between starting all-star centers Yao Ming and Ben Wallace never materialized as Detroit won on the road.

Wallace, the starter for the Eastern Conference, scored nine points and had 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who held an opponent under 100 points for the 15th straight game.

* TRAIL BLAZERS 97, HORNETS 96: Derek Anderson scored 27 points and Arvydas Sabonis scored five of visiting Portland's nine points in overtime. P.J. Brown's 12-foot jump shot at the overtime buzzer rimmed out, giving the Trail Blazers their second straight overtime victory after needing two extra periods to win at Atlanta on Wednesday.

* MAVERICKS 101, KNICKS 90: Dirk Nowitzki scored 30 points for the second straight night and Nick Van Exel made five three-pointers in New York.

Improving the NBA's best record to 34-8 and preventing the Knicks from their first four-game winning streak of the season, the Mavericks outplayed New York in the fourth quarter after the game was tied 74-74 after three.

* SUNS 110, MAGIC 107: Shawn Marion scored 23 of his 29 points in the first half and Joe Johnson had a career-high 27 as Phoenix snapped a four-game road losing streak.

* PACERS 93, SUPERSONICS 80: Jermaine O'Neal had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Indiana pulled away in the fourth quarter for its 13th straight home win.

* HAWKS 115, KINGS 104: Glenn Robinson scored 29 points, Jason Terry added 23 and host Atlanta overcame an early deficit to beat Sacramento, which was playing its fourth game in five days.

* TIMBERWOLVES 88, CLIPPERS 85: Wally Szczerbiak scored all 18 of his points in the second half, and Anthony Peeler had all 10 of his in the fourth quarter as host Minnesota rallied from a 16-point deficit.