Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 85, Timberwolves 82
Celtics 85, Timberwolves 82
When the first quarter of tonight’s game came to a close, it finally felt like the real Celtics were back. Boston held a 32-13 lead over Minnesota heading into the second quarter and picked the T’Wolves apart with precision throughout the opening 12 minutes of the game.
The lead eventually grew to as many as 25 points, but from that point on the real Celtics disappeared. That is, until they reappeared in the final minutes to steal this important win on the road.
Minnesota battled all the way back to turn a 25-point deficit into a two-point lead with 8:07 remaining. Michael Beasley, who scored a game-high 28 points, led the Timberwolves’ comeback, but it was Darko Milicic’s layup that gave his team its first lead of the night at 70-68.
If there was any momentum at that point of the game, the Wolves had it all. Memories of Friday night’s loss to the Bobcats, in which the Celtics floundered through the fourth quarter, must have been creeping back into Boston’s collective mind, but the team eventually steered those ghosts away with several big plays. There was one, though, that stood above the rest.
Paul Pierce was the man for the C’s down the stretch and willed them to victory with his offensive prowess. He scored 12 points in the fourth, but his two biggest points of the night wouldn’t have come if it Delonte West wasn’t on the floor.
West, who started in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, isn’t known as a high-flying rebounder, but he certainly looked like one on the biggest play of the game.
With 30 seconds remaining in the game and the C’s leading by just three, Kevin Garnett missed a 13-foot jumper off the back of the rim from the left side of the court. When the ball bounced off the rim, it looked as if the Timberwolves would reel in the rebound and have a chance to cut the lead down to one, or even tie, with a basket at the other end. But that’s when West decided to surprise us all.
The spot-starting point guard flew into the lane from the right wing and rose up to snag the miss out of the air with his left hand. West grabbed the rebound between three Timberwolves players, who had no clue that he was even in the general vicinity. He immediately threw the ball out to Pierce at the top of the key and Minnesota was forced to foul him with 19 seconds left in the game.
Pierce went on to calmly drill both free throws to put the Celtics ahead by five and effectively end the game. Ray Allen tacked on two free throws and Anthony Tolliver scored two meaningless buckets in the final five seconds, but those points from Pierce, which wouldn’t have happened without West’s rebound, were the decisive ticks on the scoreboard.
Yes, Boston’s exceptional play was nonexistent for the entirety of the second and third quarters, as well as most of the fourth, but when the C’s needed to make plays to win this game, they did. That’s not something they could have said as little as two days ago.
Key Box Score Line
GameTime Live’s Peter Stringer called for a fourth-quarter take over by either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen, and his call was heard. The Captain delivered on the request and the C’s rode his back to victory.
Pierce scored a team-high 23 points tonight that included a 9-of-11 shooting performance from the free-throw line. Twelve of those points came in the decisive fourth quarter while the rest of his teammates, for the most part, couldn’t get a shot to fall through the hoop.
Boston’s captain also grabbed seven rebounds on the night and dished out three assists. He and Kevin Garnett tied for the game-high plus/minus rating at plus-seven.
The raw numbers say good game, but the film will say “clutch.” Pierce came through with several huge baskets in the fourth quarter while his team’s offense was sputtering, and that helped the C’s avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Box Score Nuggets
- The Celtics shot just 40.0 percent from the field, while the Timberwolves shot just 37.5 percent.
- Four Celtics made four field goals.
- Paul Pierce scored a team-high 23 points.
- Michael Beasley scored a game-high 28 points but needed 28 field goal attempts to get there.
- Kevin Garnett notched a clean double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
- Delonte West and Garnett tied for the team-high in assists with five apiece.
- Minnesota blocked 10 shots and the Celtics did not block any.
- The Celtics committed only 11 turnovers.
- Beasley, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, and Anthony Tolliver (16 points, 15 rebounds) notched Minnesota's two double-doubles.
- Only four of the nine Minnesota players who appeared in the game recorded an assist.
- Three Celtics tied for the team-high in steals with two apiece.
- Nenad Krstic had his shot blocked five times.
- Anthony Randolph, who had averaged 27.5 PPG in his last two contests, was limited to only three points tonight.
- The two teams combined for only 58 points in the paint (30 for Minnesota, 28 for Boston).
- The Timberwolves made only 15 of their 23 free throw attempts.
- Four Celtics grabbed at least six rebounds.
- Ray Allen and Krstic scored 11 points apiece.
- Every Celtic starter finished with a positive plus/minus rating, while no reserve did so.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Delonte West's style of play: "I'm always concerned whenever he's on the floor because he's a kamikaze. You just never know. He's going to dive into the stands, he's going to run somebody over and you're just worried about him staying healthy."