Paul Pierce scored 24 points and led a third-quarter surge as the Boston Celtics routed the visiting 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.

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.

"It always feels good when you can give them a little old-fashioned beat-down in your house, no matter what direction these teams are going," Pierce said. "It'll always be a rivalry. Everybody's always going to watch."

Howard had nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out with 5:07 left.

Nuggets 128, Bulls 96: Kenneth Faried celebrated his invitation to the league's annual slam dunk contest with a series of crowd-pleasing jams as host Denver extended its winning streak to eight games. Faried finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the Nuggets improved to 15-3 since Jan. 1.

Hawks: Guard Lou Williams has had reconstructive surgery on his right knee and will begin a long rehabilitation that could leave his status in question for the start of next season.



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