Recap: Celtics lose by just inches to the Timberwolves, 124-122

Minneapolis, MN -- The Celtics failed to close out their 3-game road trip finale tonight against the Timberwolves. In their last meeting on December 21st in Boston, the C's won by 14 led by Kelly Olynyk (19) and Jae Crowder (18) and set-up by Isaiah Thomas who had 12 assists.

Unfortunately, the game was full of streaks. Double-digit runs by both teams kept each on their toes but in the end, Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng were too much to handle. As is true to this current Boston team's style, they never gave up the fight but couldn't take this one at the Target Center. Marcus Smart's last second attempt to win the game would hit the front rim and a night of comebacks fell just short for the C's. The Timberwolves' 124 points are the most the Celtics have allowed in a regulation game thus far this season.

Starting Line-ups
Celtics: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger
Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns

Always noticeably missing when not in uniform was Kevin Garnett, sitting out a 12th straight game with a nagging knee injury.

1st quarter
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns made the first buckets of the night. Jared Sullinger followed suit with the Celtics' first four points. Towns and Wiggins would take turns making shots for Minnesota until Ricky Rubio hit a jumper to put the Timberwolves up 12-6.  Celtics were 4 for 11 at the halfway mark of the first quarter with Sullinger going 3 for 3 shooting.  Marcus Smart would be first off the bench and shortly afterwards, make an Odell Beckham-esque grab for a steal and two at the other end.  An 8-0 run by the T-Wolves would be shut down by an Evan Turner turnaround jumper. Celtics cut a 16 point lead down to 8 pts, including two free throws from Smart to close out the quarter. Boston forced 4 turnovers late in the first to amp up their defensive effort. Towns led all scorers shooting 70% with 15 points. Sullinger (shooting 100%) and Smart led the way for the Celtics with 6 pts each. Celtics trailed 31-23. 

2nd quarter
Minnesota was shooting 56% to the Celtics’ 36% to start the 2nd. Tyler Zeller would make the first basket for Boston in the 2nd starting the quarter with Jonas Jerebko, Smart, Turner and Bradley.  Zeller’s free throws would close the gap to a 4-point deficit. An open-look-three for Bradley made it a 1 pt game. The C’s would take their first lead with 9 ½ minutes to play in the quarter on a 17-0 run.  A steal and fast break two by Jerebko was followed by Smart’s 2nd foul. A fall away from Turner made it 39-38. A three for Minnesota midway through the half put their 3 pt range shooting at 75% compared to Boston’s 30%. Two made free throws by Kevin Martin would put Minnesota back up by 4. An explosive dunk from Shabazz Muhammad, Sullinger’s 2nd foul under the basket and 5 more points from Muhammad would make it an 11pt lead for the Timberwolves. 7 straight points for Muhammad in a little over a minute would highlight a 9-0 run for Minnesota with under two minutes to play in the half. Towns and Crowder would make back-to-back three’s for their respective teams but a showy lay-up by Towns would prompt a Brad Steven’s time out. An Isaiah 3-pointer would trim the MN lead to 6 points and end the quarter on a 5-0 run.  Jordan Mickey would see the floor at the end of the half for the final minute. 

At the half: Timberwolves 59 - Celtics 53
Timberwolves were shooting 61% and the Celtics’ 41% but the Celtics won the quarter (30-28). Despite the differential in shooting success thus far, the boards were comparable with Minnesota taking the halftime rebound title at 29 and the C’s pulling down 23. Towns would finish the quarter with 20 points with Smart leading the Celtics’ offense with 10.

3rd quarter
The Celtics would start the quarter with two from Amir Johnson, followed by a Zach LaVine 3-pointer and a Sullinger jumper. An Avery Bradley three would shrink the lead to 2 pts. Jae Crowder would answer an Andrew Wiggins made basket – only his third of the night so far, largely due to Crowder’s defense – with one of his own. Two defensive stops plus a court-length outlet pass from Sullinger to Crowder kept the lead at two for Minnesota. Crowder would go on to score 6 consecutive points for the Celtics. Sullinger was still shooting 100% when he hit his 5th basket of the night. A 7-0 Minnesota run would put the Timberwolves up by 10 at the halfway point of the quarter. With 24 minutes played, Towns was 12-17 thus far from the field with 9 rebounds. Some frantic play coming out of a timeout would be stalled by an Isaiah Thomas offensive foul.  With 3 ½ minutes to play in the 3rd, Minnesota led by 13.  A Crowder 3-pointer eclipsed their 10-0 run and cut the lead to 10 followed by a made bucket plus one to make it 7. After two more made shots – one on a nice dish from Smart -- Crowder would have 24 points on the night so far.  At the end of the quarter the C’s had 15 fast break points. A bank three by Gorgui Dieng would put the Timberwolves up by 9 to finish the quarter.

4th quarter
Towns led all players in rebounds followed closely by Turner with 9. First points of the quarter would come from Smart on the line. A Tyus Jones bucket pushed the Timberwolves’ lead back to 8 with just over 9 minutes to play in the game. Andreian Payne fadeaway jumper followed by an Avery Bradley bucket left the Celtics chasing a 10-point lead and the Timberwolves having scored 101 points with 8+ minutes to go. Worth noting that Isaiah Thomas had not taken any free throws at this point in the game. A pretty pass from Bradley to Jerebko coming off a pick and roll would put him on the line and end in a successful 3-point play. With 7 minutes to play the C’s were down 11.  After two made free throws by Muhammad, Minnesota’s lead grew to 13 but a 3-pointer from Thomas and a turnover by Rubio leading to a Bradley dunk would quickly cut their lead to 8.  An interesting call against Crowder on an attempted alley-oop for Lavine from Rubio would get a “that’s ridiculous” from Brad Stevens and – for what it’s worth -- I wholeheartedly agreed. Another foul on the Celtics, this time on Thomas, would send Wiggins to the line and put Minnesota back up 12 on his 1-2 free throws. After Rubio took another trip to the line, the lead grew to 14 and all 5 starters for Minnesota were officially in double figures for the night. A Dieng dunk put him at 17 poins for the night but a couple of turnovers breathed some life into the Celtics with under 3 minutes to go.  Down 8 after 4 straight field goals, the Celtics would send Rubio back to the line and that play would serve Smart his 4th foul. 

After a timeout, Smart’s 5th would be a blocking foul that sent Wiggins to the line where he was shooting 50%.  Thomas would make a two to put the Celtics back within 6.  Despite Minnesota not having made a field goal in almost 5 minutes, a perfect Rubio from the line would put the T-wolves up 8. A quick Jae Crowder three made it a 5-point game. Thomas would hit a reverse lay-up for the C's and two missed Rubio free throws kept things hopeful with the Celtics down 4 points -- possession and 9 seconds to play -- but no timeouts. Bradley hitting a three-pointer put the Celtics within 1. LaVine would go on to miss 1 of 2 foul shots.  Boston got the ball into Smart who would miss a pull-up three. 

FINAL SCORE: Timberwolves 124 - Celtics 122

Celtics: Jae Crowder 27 (career high); Avery Bradley 22; Isaiah Thomas 18
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns 28 points; Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins 17 points apiece

The Celtics will head home to meet Milwaukee on Thursday night at the Garden.

Photo Credit: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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