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The Boston Celtics had not had a lead since just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Minnesota Timberwolves led by eight points with just over seven minutes left in the game. But the Timberwolves had already lost seven games in which they’d led by at least 10 points this season, and the Celtics finally found an offensive rhythm. An 11-2 Celtics run [highlighted by three three-pointers by Ray Allen (two) and Paul Pierce (one)] over the next five minutes shifted momentum towards Boston, who beat the Timberwolves 96-93 at home. It was Boston’s eighth consecutive victory over Minnesota.
Pierce had struggled through the first half, connecting on just two of six shots. Allen started strong, sinking two of his first three shots for three points each, but only scored once in the second quarter, a dunk with 32 seconds left that came on a fast-break two-on-one with Rajon Rondo, who waited for Allen to catch up before passing to him for one of Rondo’s 16 assists. The dunk cut Minnesota’s lead to 45-43 late in the second, although two Timberwolves free-throws extended their lead to 47-43 heading into halftime.
But in the second half, both players remembered how they could best score, and started doing so. Allen’s scoring started by running more without the basketball. On one play midway through the third quarter, Allen cut out from under the basket, then turned and cut back under it. Rondo quickly passed it to the suddenly wide-open Allen, who scored on an easy up-and-under shot, cutting the Timberwolves’ lead to 53-51.
Pierce, meanwhile, found his mid-range jump-shot in the third quarter, hitting three of his five third-quarter baskets from between 14 and 19 feet away. Pierce also tipped in a missed Von Wafer three-point shot with 2:20 left in the quarter, keeping the Timberwolves’ lead at just four points.
Wafer played his best game as a Celtic Monday night, adding six rebounds, an assist, a steal and zero turnovers to his 10 points. He had the highest plus-minus of any Celtic, at plus-16.
In the fourth quarter, Allen once again got open by sprinting cross-court without the basketball, this time hitting an easy three-pointer with 6:39 left in the game to start the Celtics’ comeback. After a scoreless three minutes of play, Pierce set a pick for Rondo just inside the three-point arc, then broke away when the Timberwolves went to double-cover Rondo. Pierce was now wide open behind the three-point line, and Rondo found him for the easy trey, cutting Minnesota’s lead to 85-83.
On the next Celtics possession, Pierce found Allen for another three pointer, cutting Minnesota’s lead to a lone point, 87-86. Pierce finished the game with 23 points and six rebounds. Allen finished with 20, including four three-pointers.
Rondo hit two floaters in the final 1:35 to give the Celtics leads of 90-89 and 94-91, but Timberwolves power forward Michael Beasley (19 points to lead all Timberwolves) hit four of five shots for eight points in the last 3:30 of the game to keep it a one-possession game. However, Beasley’s final shot, a three-point attempt from 31 feet away with 1.8 seconds left, hit the backboard and nothing else to preserve the Celtics win.
For the Timberwolves, power forward Kevin Love did what he does best, rebound and get double-doubles. He grabbed 24 boards and scored 12 points. Love leads the league in both total and per-game offensive and defensive rebounds, as well as double-doubles.
Love dominated on the boards once again, but Glen Davis used his 30-pound advantage to dominate Love offensively. Twice in the first half, Davis backed Love down before spinning and hitting fade-away jumpers. In the third quarter, Davis backed Love down, then spun inside him, sinking the lay-up and drawing the foul. Davis converted the three-point play, cutting the Minnesota lead to 75-73.
Davis finished the game with 17 points, including all three free-throw attempts. His other two free-throws came after Love air-balled a three-pointer with 1:15 left in the game, Allen grabbed it and launched a full-court pass to Davis. Timberwolves point guard Luke Ridnour, who stands just 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, and was the only defender nearby, could only foul Davis, and Davis sank both free-throws, maintaining the Celtics’ three-point lead late in the game.
Ridnour was then called for traveling after receiving a Timberwolves inbound pass with nine seconds left in the game, and the Celtics ran five seconds off the clock before going to the free-throw line one last time. All that remained were two successful free-throws, a Pierce foul and Beasley’s missed three-pointer, and the game was over. The Timberwolves tried to win on the strength of their rebounding (the Celtics’ biggest weakness), but it wasn’t enough to stop an offense that is far more fluid now that Rondo has returned to its helm.