The Boston Celtics roared away from the Denver Nuggets in the second quarter and cruised to a crushing 114-76 victory on Monday.
Ray Allen scored 26 points and Paul Pierce added 22 as the Celtics gained revenge for a 94-85 loss to the Nuggets in Boston last November and pulled a game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the tight Eastern Conference race.
The Cavaliers (43-11) have the better percentage mark but have played fewer games than the Celtics (46-12).
"I think we had the right focus coming into the game," Rajon Rondo, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, told reporters.
"Doc (Celtics coach Doc Rivers) gave a great motivational speech. He told us they bullied us last time."
The win was the second in a row for Boston without injured forward Kevin Garnett, who is out two to three weeks with a knee injury.
"It's almost like we took it personal from the time when they came in our house and beat us, so it was definitely a get-back game," Pierce told reporters.
Nuggets coach George Karl agreed.
"We caught a team that was angry," Karl told reporters "They wanted to beat us. They wanted to embarrass us. They were more physical than us. They went at us pretty good."
The loss was the worst since the Chicago Bulls defeated the Nuggets by 39 points in 1998.
J.R. Smith had 19 points and Carmelo Anthony 18 for Denver, the third-placed Western Conference team who were returning home from an eight-game road trip.
Harris' half-court winner
Devin Harris hit an unbelievable, lunging half-court shot at the buzzer as the New Jersey Nets snapped a season-high five-game losing streak with a 98-96 victory over the slumping Philadelphia 76ers.
With players from both teams surrounding the scorer's table, the referees watched replays of Harris' shot for nearly three minutes before signaling the basket was good.
Seconds earlier, the 76ers seemingly nailed down the victory when Andre Iguodala sank the second of two free throws to give them a one-point lead with 1.8 seconds to play.
The Nets quickly inbounded the ball to Harris, who bobbled it after bumping with Iguodala and then heaved in the winner from in front of the scorer's table.
Harris finished with a game-high 39 points, but his 22nd shot of the night will be one Nets fans remember, especially if it helps key a run to the playoffs.
(Agencies via China Daily Feburary 25, 2009)