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Celtics cap eventful day in Boston with win

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BOSTON — Wednesday was a festive day in Boston, with the NFL-champion New England Patriots riding through the snow-stacked streets on duck boats to celebrate their fourth Super Bowl title with thousands of their closest friends.

Hours later, Patriots owner Bob Kraft and some of his players, mostly lesser-knowns but including late-game hero Malcolm Butler, were introduced to a basketball crowd that included all kinds of empty seats.

Oh, and the Celtics won.

They blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and held off the Denver Nuggets 104-100 for their second win in 24 hours.

“We’re learning how to win close games,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “It takes a while.

“A few years ago, Doc (coach Rivers) was here. We had a lot of veterans on the team. They knew how to close games out. We’re a young team. We’re leaning. We’re learning every day and we’re trusting in Brad’s play and we’re trusting in each other. That’s big for us, being a young team. Anyone can make a big shot for us.”

Forward Jared Sullinger, who didn’t start for the second straight home game after again arriving late for the walk-through, snapped a 100-100 tie with two free throws with 22.8 seconds left.

Forward Jae Crowder then stole the inbounds pass after a timeout and Bradley bagged two free throws with 18.3 on the clock. The Nuggets, losing their fourth straight and 11th in the last 12 games, threw the ball away again.

“We had a bunch of games early that didn’t go our way,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “Some of that is the bounce of the ball and that evens out in time, and some of that is you have certain things you can control that we had to do better.”

The result is a 5-5 record in the last 10 games — and actually being just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot at 18-30.

Bradley, coming off a 26-point game in New York on Tuesday night, finished with 17 points. Guard Marcus Thornton came off the bench to score 17, going 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

Center Ty Zeller and subs Sullinger and Crowder had 14 apiece. Sullinger had seven rebounds and Crowder six.

Rookie guard Marcus Smart scored just four points and missed two free throws with 15.2 seconds left but grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds and had eight assists to go with three steals and just two turnovers in more than 41 minutes.

Guard Ty Lawson, who was injured and didn’t play the first time the teams met last month, scored 17 of his 23 points and had five of his eight assists in the second half for the Nuggets (19-31).

“I’m not into moral victories, but from the effort standpoint and what we’ve been getting lately, I can live with this a lot better because they did fight all the way until the end,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.

Denver forward Kenneth Faried left the game midway through the third quarter after suffering a head cut. He returned in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Arron Affalo had 18 points.

“We had our shots and we didn’t connect in those situations and they did,” Shaw said. “They made the shots, they made the defensive stops, that’s why they won the game.”

Thornton came off the bench to lead a first-half long-range barrage, hitting all three of his treys en route to 12 first-half points. The Celtics were 9 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half, coming from eight points down to go up by as many as 12 points and by 10 at the half.

Boston was just 3 of 16 on treys in the second half and Denver was 4 of 24. The Nuggets did go 30 of 33 from the foul line.

The crowd of 15,126 was held down by at least three factors — the Patriots celebration, a massive traffic snarl the previous night caused by snow banks and the Nuggets being the visiting team.

NOTES: Celtics F Jared Sullinger arrived late for the walk-through for a second straight home game. He again cited traffic, this time on the day of the Patriots’ victory parade. His punishment was again not starting. “It’s a great decision by Coach (Brad Stevens),” said Sullinger, who has started all but the two punishment games. Stevens said, “It’s the second time in two years. It just happens to be the second time in (four) days. I said it the other day: I don’t think it’s an issue. But he just has to be here. Our precedent is set.” … G Jameer Nelson, who was with the Celtics briefly recently before moving on to Denver, suffered an Achilles injury Tuesday night and was out. … The Nuggets are at Detroit on Friday night and the Celtics host Philadelphia. … Denver was working on bringing F Joffrey Lauvergne, acquired in a draft-night deal last June, back from overseas. The Nuggets have a roster spot open.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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