Doc Rivers decided not to tell his team that Carmelo Anthony was scratched until after the Celtics had already prepared to face the Denver Nuggets star.

He learned that lesson from Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant.

"He really didn't want to tell us that Carmelo wasn't playing," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said after Boston beat the visiting Nuggets, 105-89, last night. "I think he waited to the very last second."

Ray Allen scored 28 points to help the Celtics take advantage of Anthony's injury and win their eighth straight game. The loss left Nuggets coach George Karl stuck on 999 wins; his next chance to reach 1,000 comes tomorrow at Toronto.

Kevin Garnett had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Rajon Rondo added 13 assists for Boston. Paul Pierce scored 17 and Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who had been ill during the week, had 16 points.

Reserve guard Ty Lawson scored 24 for Denver, and Gary Forbes, who started in place of Anthony, had five points and zero rebounds in 19 minutes.

Anthony was scratched just before tip-off because of inflammation in his right knee. He is day-to-day.

Rivers tried to withhold the information, thinking it might keep his players focused.

"Yeah, they knew I was lying," he said. "The last time, it didn't work. So we tried something different."

The Celtics hit their first seven shots and opened a 16-4 lead before they missed one, on Garnett's fallaway with 8:04 left in the first. The lead was 30-11 before the Nuggets began to chip away.

They outscored Boston 29-12 over the bulk of the second quarter - Lawson had 11 in the period - to pull within 51-50. But the Celtics pulled away again, getting a long two-pointer from Allen and a pair of free throws from Pierce, and when Allen hit a layup in the closing seconds it was 59-52.

The Nuggets never got within one possession after that.

In other games:

* At Cleveland, Derrick Rose scored 29 points, including a three-point play that put Chicago ahead for good with 39.2 seconds to play, and the Bulls beat Cleveland, 88-83, to hand the Cavaliers their sixth straight loss.

* At New York, Raymond Felton's tiebreaking 3-pointer bounced on the rim five times and finally went in with 2.7 seconds left, giving the Knicks a 113-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors, which extended their winning streak to six. Amare Stoudemire extended his 30-point streak to six games.

* At Milwaukee, Andrew Bogut tipped in an inbounds pass from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as time expired, lifting the Bucks to a 97-95 win over the Indiana Pacers.

* At New Orleans, David West scored 25 points, Chris Paul had 14 assists and the Hornets won their first game since the NBA announced its impending takeover of the club, 93-74, over the Detroit Pistons.

* At Minneapolis, Kevin Durant scored 30 points, including 20 in the second half, and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder came from 19 points down to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-103.

_ At San Antonio, Tony Parker had 19 points and nine assists, and the Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors, 111-94, to set a franchise record for best start to a season.

* At Salt Lake City, LeBron James scored 33 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 and the Miami Heat outscored the Utah Jazz by 14 in the fourth quarter for a 111-98 victory. The victory extended Miami's winning streak to six, and avenged a 116-114 overtime loss to Utah at home on Nov. 9.

* At Phoenix, Zach Randolph scored a season-high 34 points, Rudy Gay had 22 and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied to beat the Suns, 104-98, in overtime.

_ At Sacramento, Jason Thompson scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Kings ran away from the Washington Wizards, 116-91.

According to the Kings website, Sam Dalembert, who attended Phil Jasner's funeral yesterday, did not make it to the game on time, and didn't play. His absence was excused by the Kings.

* At Los Angeles, Derek Fisher scored on a driving layup with a tenth of a second left in regulation as the Lakers erased a five-point deficit with 1:14 left and defeated the Clippers, 87-86.