Michael Adams scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half as the Denver Nuggets wiped out a 16-point deficit last night and stopped Boston's last-gasp bid to edge the Celtics, 103-102.
The loss dropped the Celtics into third place behind idle New York and Philadelphia, which beat Detroit, 107-101, last night.
Trailing by one point, Boston got the ball back with 23 seconds left when Larry Bird won a jump ball from Adams. Bird got the ball back in the corner and was surrounded by three Nuggets. The Celtics moved the ball to Kevin McHale, but he missed a 12-ft. jumper with five seconds left.
Boston, which had its four-game winning streak snapped, was led by Robert Parish with 38 points, two short of his 14-year career high. Bird added 24 and McHale 20, but the Celtics were only 16-for-53 in the second half and 6-for-24 in the fourth quarter.
Alex English had 20 points and Jerome Lane 16 for Denver, which ended a two-game losing streak but won its eighth game in its last 11.
A tip-in by Parish with 2:27 left was Boston's last basket, cutting Denver's lead to 101-100.
Walter Davis then made what turned out to be the winning basket with a layup off an offensive rebound, giving the Nuggets a 103-100 lead with 90 seconds left.
After a Boston miss, Bird stole the ball, leading to a fastbreak on which Dennis Johnson was fouled. He made both shots with 63 seconds remainings.
The Early Going
The Celtics led, 63-53, at halftime, but Denver got back in the game in the third quarter when Adams had 15 points, including three three-pointers--two in an 8-0 run that put the Nuggets ahead, 80-78, with 2:54 left in the quarter.
McHale started that quarter with two free throws, but two foul shots by English began an 11-0 run that gave the Nuggets a 93-86 lead with 8:05 to play. They took the lead for good, 88-86, on Fat Lever's, basket with 9:02 remaining.