BOSTON (AP) - Paul Pierce scored 24 points and led a third-quarter surge as the Boston Celtics routed the Los Angeles Lakers 116-95 on Thursday night, improving to 6-0 since losing point guard Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn knee ligament.
The Lakers had cut a 58-44 halftime deficit to 72-61 with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Then the Celtics went on a 23-8 run and led 95-69 going into the fourth. Pierce started the surge with a three-point play and ended it with a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left, giving him 12 points in the period.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 to lead the Lakers, who suffered their worst loss of the season despite the return of Dwight Howard after he missed three games with a sore right shoulder.
The win was Boston's biggest of the season.
The Lakers had won six of their previous seven games, including all three without Howard, and had moved three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
NUGGETS 128, BULLS 96
DENVER (AP) - Kenneth Faried celebrated his invitation to the league's annual slam dunk contest with a series of rim-rattling, crowd-pleasing jams that helped Denver extend its winning streak to eight games.
Faried finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes as the Nuggets won for the 15th time in 18 games since Jan. 1.
Wilson Chandler added 24 points in just 19 minutes as the Nuggets made quick work of a stingy Bulls team that came in yielding just 91 points a game but watched Denver pour in 100 by the time the third quarter was over.
Carlos Boozer led Chicago's starters with 18 points and Daequan Cook had 19 points off the bench.
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