The Timberwolves, however, managed to score on a long Wiggins two before the quarter ended, and extended their lead as the second quarter started as Karl-Anthony Towns and Nemanja Bjelica extended the lead in the early minutes of the second. The Celts hung fairly close, drawing to within two on a Marcus Smart bucket at just under nine minutes left in the half, only to see Tyus Jones answer back on the next possession. A pair of Muhammad dunks stretched the lead to ten, with Boston going scoreless for several minutes until a foul on Rubio sent Isaiah Thomas to the line while he was shooting a three; Thomas sunk all three.
Al Horford is playing like a superstar right now. 18-8-6 so far, triple-double watch in full effect.— Mark Van Deusen (@LucidSportsFan) March 16, 2017
Isaiah carried the team for much of the rest of the first half, scoring layups, treys, and getting back to the free throw line, seemingly at will. Kelly Olynyk took a hard hit from Muhammad only to have it called a block, and seemingly a little rattled, was called for travelling on the next play. Another Thomas three kept the game from getting out of control, though, and some veteran wisdom allowed Amir Johnson to use a hustling Towns' momentum against him to get to the free throw line himself, though only able to convert one of two from the stripe.
IT finds Horford for the slam in traffic! pic.twitter.com/7anKoo11Uu— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 16, 2017
Towns returned the favor immediately, however, sinking both and threatening to pull away in the waning moments of the first half, but a Jae Crowder block and a Smart bucket reeled the run in. Avery Bradley drained a timely three just a few plays after fouling Muhammad and giving up two at the line, and Thomas himself drew a foul with just 30 seconds left to tie the game up, only to see Rubio steal a bucket on the next possession, sending the Timberwolves into the locker room with a two-point cushion at the half.
Al Horford started the third by turning over the ball, and Crowder was called for a foul shortly after, but a Wiggins miss was quickly converted to a bucket for Horford, and he more than made up for the turnover by drawing a foul on Boston's next possession, giving the Celts the lead until Brandon Rush stole the lead back, only to see Horford wrest it right back off a Bradley assist. Boston finally began to pull away on a Bradley three at just under the nine minute mark, aided by a Horford trey that put Boston up eight at the 7:30 mark.
Marcus Smart took over these last 3-4 minutes of the 3rd quarter, but you wouldn't know it by looking at his stat line. Guy just balls— Michael Dyer (@Mike_Dyer13) March 16, 2017
Just when it seemed the game would start to slip for Minnesota, Rubio sank a three and a two on successive possessions. Both teams traded blows until a Thomas bucket followed by a pair of fouls by Rush and Gorgui Dieng seemed to signal a momentum shift. Olynyk came alive in this stretch, scoring a pair of buckets then drawing a foul, converting one and putting Boston up 83-75 a little under a minute left in the third. Kris Dunn would score on the next play, sending the game into the final frame with Boston leading 85-77.
Jaylen Brown opened the fourth on an auspicious note, drilling a three of a Horford assist on the weak side, followed shortly by a Jerebko layup of yet another Horford assist to give the Celts a 13-point cushion, and Al his sixth dish of the evening. A telegraph pass to Muhammad forced Brown to foul him, with Shabazz missing one of the two at the line. Rozier quickly answered with a trey for the team's biggest lead of the night to that point - 93-78 - but a Towns tip-in seemed to stop the bleeding. The momentum was interrupted by an apparent injury to Lance Stephenson just moments after entering the game, who rolled his ankle but otherwise seemed OK.
IT (21 points) and Horford (18 points, 8 rebs, 6 asts) already have a game's worth of numbers and the Celtics lead 85-77 through three qtrs. pic.twitter.com/f8inKfY1Fe— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 16, 2017
A foul by Smart on Muhammad finally got Minnesota on the board again, but a pair of buckets by Horford and Jerebko pushed the lead back to 15. A long Bradley two and then a three seemingly put the game out of reach at 102-86 with just over five left to play, followed by another dagger from the perimeter by Thomas to push the lead to 19. Once again, each team traded blow-for-blow, with no real ground given by either until Wiggins cut the lead to 13 on a layup with about two minutes left. Milking the clock as time drew to the end of the quarter, a hustle play by Johnson led to an and-one and a layup that sealed the deal with less than a minute to go, with the Celts holding the ball on the final possession, coming away with a 117-104 win.
Boston next faces the Brooklyn Nets at home in the second-to-last meeting between the two teams this season at 5:30 PM EST on March 17th.
For more stories about the Timberwolves on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.
Celtics now 1.5 games up on Wizards, just 2 back of Cavs.— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) March 16, 2017
To hear how this win - and the Washington Wizards loss vs. the Dallas Mavericks - affects the race for playoff seeding in the East, click here.
Photo via CSNNE.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn Justin Quinn 3/15/2017 10:10:00 PM Tweet Edit