Ray Allen found a cure for his off-target shooting with an 18-point first quarter against the Denver Nuggets last night.
But Allen did not maintain that pace, and the Celtics faded in a 94-85 loss that snapped their six-game winning streak.
After Allen (1 for 9) and Eddie House (1 for 7) shot a combined 2 for 16 on 3-pointers in a 103-102 win over Atlanta Wednesday, both arrived early for practice the following morning. The extra shooting paid off - Allen (26 points) went 9 for 16 and House (13 points) was 5 for 11 against the Nuggets, though neither was a factor down the stretch.
"It was just the flow of the game," Allen said of his lack of shots following a 6-for-7 first quarter.
The Celtics' bench failed to match the Nuggets' - House was the only Boston reserve to score more than a point, while Denver's Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith both finished with 10.
"They've been playing great until the last two games," coach Doc Rivers said of the Celtics' reserves. "The bench is going to be big for us because, really, after [tonight's visit to Milwaukee] is when I start using the bench more. They're going to have to play well because I'm going to use them, regardless. We can't go with Paul [ Pierce] and Ray playing 40 minutes every night. Those numbers have to come down to the 34-minute mark."
Billups looks back
Chauncey Billups has experienced a second homecoming since joining the Nuggets last week. And Billups visited a second home in leading the Nuggets to victory at TD Banknorth Garden.
"When I'm all over the country, I see people from Boston who always tell me, 'Man, I still wish they didn't trade you,' " said Billups, who scored 18 points. "I think people still remember. But I don't know if they remember how I played when I was there.
"I've had some peaks and valleys. When I got to Boston as the third pick [in the 1997 draft], you're thinking, 'I'm going to be here 8-9 years, man, hopefully have some success, be an All-Star, and we win a championship.' Those are the goals you set for yourself, and I know how hard they are to reach. You try to set them in stone. But I was out of there in three or four months, and from then on, the next four or five years were worse and worse all the time. It was tough for me. I don't know that anyone has had it like I've had and then made it back to the top."
Billups, 32, was born in Denver and played for the Nuggets during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons after being acquired from Toronto. He rejoined the Nuggets, along with Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb, in a deal with Detroit for Allen Iverson. McDyess's contract was bought out this week.
"It has a spirit to it, a positive spirit, and hopefully, we can ride that spirit," Denver coach George Karl said of the trade. "[Billups] is an efficient player and an effective player. He can figure out what went wrong and what went right, and that helps the flow of the game, helps the guys who are playing, and, in a lot of ways, we have not had that the last two years."
The Celtics' visit to Milwaukee concludes their fourth back-to-back situation, in which they play two games in a 24-hour period in two cities. Last season, the Celtics were 8-0 in the second of successive games. "There is nothing we can do about it, just play through it," Rivers said. "This is our fourth back-to-back in half a month, and a lot of teams have 10 of them for the year. It's been exhausting, no doubt about it. We know teams are going to attack us and we have to weather the storm."
Giddens sent down
Top draft pick J.R. Giddens will be sent to the Utah Flash in the Development League and second-round choice Bill Walker will remain with the Celtics, team president Danny Ainge said. Giddens and Walker were inactive for last night's game. Last season, Gabe Pruitt played point guard for Utah, then solidified a place on the Celtics' roster with his preseason performances. "I didn't know how it would work, but I like it," Rivers said of the D League.
Marc J. Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report.