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Anthony's 42 points not enough to stop Celtics

BOSTON (AP) -- It took Boston Celtics guard Tony Allen two
up-and-down seasons to earn an everyday starting role. Now that
he's got it, he's playing like he never wants to go back to the
bench -- even for a minute.

Paul Pierce scored 38 points and Allen added a career-high 30 to
help the Boston Celtics extend their winning streak to four with a
119-114 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

Allen shot 11-of-13 from the field while adding eight rebounds
and three steals in 48 minutes. On defense, Allen kept Carmelo
Anthony from single-handedly winning the game for the Nuggets.

Anthony took over the NBA scoring lead with a season-high 42, including 16 in the fourth quarter to keep the game close. But Allen's physical
defense tired out Anthony, who missed six of 17 free throws. Anthony's now averaging 31.5 points a game.

"Obviously, Tony was phenomenal," Celtics coach Doc Rivers
said. "In the second quarter, I told our coaches, 'Unless Tony
asks to come out, he's not coming out.' Because I really didn't see
anybody else guarding Carmelo."

Al Jefferson had 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Wally
Szczerbiak scored 16 points off the bench for the Celtics (9-13),
who moved into a first-place tie with the New Jersey Nets in the
lowly Atlantic Division. New Jersey lost to Toronto 90-78 earlier
Friday.

The Celtics led by as many as 19 and never trailed, although
Denver turned it into a close game thanks to Anthony, Andre Miller
and J.R. Smith.

Miller scored 18 and Smith had 14 of his 15 points in the fourth
quarter for the Nuggets (12-9), who lost their second straight and
fell to 1-3 on their five-game trip.

The Nuggets (12-9) lost to Washington 120-91 on Tuesday and
conclude the trip in New York on Saturday.

Boston led 70-51 early in the third quarter, but Miller and
Anthony combined for 17 third-quarter points to help the Nuggets
cut the deficit to 85-74 to start the fourth.

After Jefferson opened the fourth with a layup to extend
Boston's lead to 13, Anthony scored five straight, sparking an 11-2
run that helped the Nuggets close the gap to 89-85.

The Nuggets got as close as 94-91 on Miller's layup midway
through the quarter, but Boston scored seven of the next nine
points to pull away.

Allen's steal and breakaway dunk capped the spurt and made it
101-93 with 4 minutes remaining. Pierce, who added nine assists and
eight rebounds, hit a 3-pointer two possessions later to make it
106-95.

"I thought we had better flow in the second half, but still dug
too big of a hole," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "You can't
get behind 15, 18 points on the road. It's insane, it's hard to
make up that big of a difference."

Boston improved to 4-2 since Allen moved into the starting
lineup six games ago with Szczerbiak out with a left ankle sprain.

Szczerbiak returned for Boston's 101-81 victory Tuesday in
Philadelphia, but has come off the bench since. Before the game
Friday, Rivers said he planned to keep Allen in the starting lineup
because of his defensive presence and because Szczerbiak adds a
spark off the bench the Celtics had been missing.

Allen started 34 games as a rookie in 2004-05, but wasn't able
to sustain his success last year. He missed the first 23 games of
the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery, and didn't
get into a rhythm until late in the season.

After a slow start, Allen has now scored at least 16 points in
three of his last five games.

"I think I got a little more strength in my knee now," Allen
said. "I'm taking advantage of the opportunity that I was given."

Allen made his first eight shots, and his 11 first-quarter
points helped the Celtics jump out to a 31-17 lead. He kept it
going in the second quarter, following Anthony's layup with a
baseline dunk and a 3-pointer to extend Boston's lead to 36-19.

"(Allen) caught us by surprise," said Denver center Marcus
Camby, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. "He came out with
high energy in the first quarter, and once they got that lead we
weren't able to catch them."

Game notes
Boston power forward Ryan Gomes sat out after straining his
right calf in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia. Rivers said he's
unsure how much time Gomes will miss. Brian Scalabrine started in
Gomes' place. ... The Celtics snapped a four-game home losing
streak. ... Before the game, Denver coach George Karl said his team
has been distracted by Allen Iverson trade rumors. "I'm not going
to deny it," Karl said. "We're human beings, I'm sure some it
affects some of our players." ... The Nuggets have been outscored
a combined 140-90 in the first quarter during their road trip.