By A.Sherrod Blakely
DENVER The Boston Celtics have got this playing short-handed thing down to a science.
Just when it seems that they can't possibly play with fewer bodies, you have games like Thursday night's in which the C's trotted out eight players -- no, make that nine when you throw in D-League call-up Chris Johnson.
The lack of bodies, courtesy of Danny Ainge trading away a third of the team's roster, eventually proved to be too big a hurdle for the Celtics to overcome as the Denver Nuggets pulled away in the game's closing minutes for an 89-75 win.
Paul Pierce led all Celtics with 17 points, but he did it on 7-for-18 shooting. Denver was led by Kenyon Martin's game-high 18 points.
For the better part of three quarters, the C's played an inspired brand of basketball, which was surprising when you consider how down in the dumps they were prior to tip-off.
The C's were clearly saddened by all of the trades, with the one making the most impact being Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson being shipped to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green (a former Celtics draft pick) and Nenad Krstic.
Boston also traded rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland for a future second-round pick. In addition, Marquis Daniels was traded to Sacramento along with cash, for a second-round pick.
It was indeed an emotionally draining day for the Celtics, who did not learn about the trades until shortly after the team's morning shoot-around.
Disappointed, the Celtics knew they had to move on regardless of how much it hurt to no longer play with guys that they had grown close to.
"It hurts. I ain't gonna lie," Perkins told CSNNE.com after learning that he was traded. "There's a lot of love in that locker room, for sure."
But that love only goes so far.
Because when all is said and done, the game's have to go on.
"At the end of the day, we gotta remember," said Boston's Delonte West. "We're professionals and this is part of the game."