The Celtics fought their tails off to cut a 17-point, second-quarter deficit all the way down to five heading into halftime of Saturday night’s game in Minnesota. Their 12-5 run to close the first half made it seem as if this one was going to be a competitive contest down to the final buzzer.
“We fought to get back in it, and I thought it was a good fight to get back in it,” Brad Stevens said after the game.
The problem is, that fight may have cost the Celtics in the second half.
“In the third quarter it looked like we ran out of steam,” Stevens said. “The guys that got us back in it, or the guys that were on the court at the end of that half, when we started the second half it looked like the legs were shot a little bit.”
Minnesota didn’t waste much time before it capitalized on that fact in the third quarter.
The teams went back and forth over the first three minutes of the third period before Minnesota took complete control of the game. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic were each sent to the line within a span of 28 seconds and both cashed in on both of their freebies. Love then followed up with a turnaround hook shot down low before Kevin Martin rattled off five straight points, three from behind the arc and two via a layup.
Boston trailed by just four points before Love began Minnesota’s run at the 8:54 mark of the third. One minute and 53 seconds later, the Celtics had already fallen behind by 15.
Minnesota went on to lead by as many as 21 points in the second half as Boston struggled to another subpar offensive performance. The C’s fought to the bitter end, but they were visibly gassed over the final two quarters. It began to show when the Timberwolves went on that quick 10-0 spurt, and continued as Minnesota cruised to a 106-88 victory.
Key Box Score Line
Avery Bradley isn’t a natural point guard, and he isn’t a natural shooting guard. It’s nights like Saturday, however, that make you think that he’s meant to play at the 2-guard position.
Bradley was an offensive force Saturday night in Minnesota. The Timberwolves logged 106 points, but it was Bradley who led the game in scoring with 27 of his own. That number stands as his season high in the scoring column. Bradley shot 12-of-23 from the field during the game. The 6-foot-3 guard also chipped in three boards and a steal during his 36 minutes of action.
Those numbers are great, but what was even more important was the confidence Bradley displayed. He was in attack mode from the very tip and carried that aggression throughout the entire game. He didn’t hesitate on a single shot all night long, and oftentimes he was actually looking for a shot. That’s not typical of Bradley, who usually scores off of teammates’ passes rather than creating his own shot.
Saturday’s game, however, was different. Bradley came out with the offensive mindset of a true shooting guard and that led to a phenomenal performance at that end of the court.
Box Score Nuggets
- Minnesota scored 33 points in the first quarter and 34 points in the third quarter.
- Avery Bradley shot 12-for-23 from the field. The rest of the team shot 22-for-83 (34.9 percent).
- Vitor Faverani grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and also blocked a game-high four shots.
- Both teams grabbed 50 boards.
- Minnesota outshot Boston by just 3.1 percent from the field yet won by 18 points.
- Kevin Love (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (20 points, 12 rebounds) recorded the game's only double-doubles.
- Brandon Bass (plus-five), Faverni (plus-two) and Phil Pressey (plus-two) were the only Celtics to finish with a positive plus/minus rating.
- Ricky Rubio dished out a game-high seven assists.
- Minnesota scored 52 points in the paint to Boston's 28.
Quote of the Night
Every time we made a run, Pekovic stopped it. Every single time... You only have so many bodies to throw at him. Brad Stevens on defending Nikola Pekovic