Yep, that’s a win, Paul Pierce. (Elise Amendola / AP)

At some point, not having Rajon Rondo will be a problem for the Boston Celtics.

Not yet, though. Despite losing its best player for the season, the team is playing lights-out, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-114 in a triple-overtime thriller Sunday in blizzard-bound Boston.

Paul Pierce had a triple doube (27 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists), Kevin Garnett had had 20 points and 18 rebounds, and Jason Terry scored 26 points as the Celtics improved to 27-23.

“The NBA’s finest at its best,” Garnett, who played 47 minutes, said. “This was a tough game.”

The triple double was the second for Pierce since Rondo was injured.

“Roles expand [with Rondo out],” Pierce said. “I know what I’m capable of, but when you have a guy like Rondo, not as much is needed from me because you have another guy who can do so many things also. So I think with him out, the roles change, where I’m going to be more of a facilitator for this ballclub, and it’s got to come from not only me, it’s got to come from a number of guys. You see other guys being able to step up and they’re scoring more. So it’s not only me, it’s everybody whose roles change and have to do more with the injuries that we have.”

The Nuggets had won nine in a row, but were coming off back-to-back games; the Celtics had two days of rest because the Northeast blizzard forced cancellation of Saturday’s practice. The OT game was the ninth of the season for the Celtics, who have also had to adjust to the loss of Jared Sullinger for the year.

“I know we’re a bunch of fighters,” Garnett said. “I know we’ve got a bunch of competitive guys in here, we’ve got a bunch of talent in here. We’ve got future talent in here. A lot of guys can do some great things. I think a lot of guys in here are going to be great in this league. This is all about putting it together and seeing what it can do together, not just as individuals.”

No one knows where they go from here, whether this continues to work. But, as the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn writes, it’s an exhilarating ride:

It’s ridiculous to say the Celtics are a better club without Rondo, but their versatility and balance has become a strength, which inexplicably they didn’t use while Rondo was healthy. Paul Pierce has become the all-around player he was six years ago, Jason Terry is hitting open jumpers, and Jeff Green has finally become consistent.

Whether the urgency created by Rondo’s injury, the threat of being broken up through trades, or the embarrassment of losing a 27-point lead at Atlanta caused such a drastic change is uncertain, but the Celtics have made it clear they plan on hanging around this playoff race. Their surge is likely encouraging team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to make additions instead of subtractions.

We’ll see how the old guys do tonight in Charlotte, in the second of back-to-back games.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.


Kevin Durant hit another fan with a ball. No kiss this time, though.