Celtics Give Postseason Lesson, Beat Wolves 100-79

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t looking for a history lesson Friday night at Target Center, but the Boston Celtics found the time and place suitable for one anyway.

The Wolves are, by and large, the up-and-coming team looking to break through and snatch the franchise’s first playoff appearance in eight years. The battle-tested Celtics, still led by its core that helped deliver an NBA title in 2008, are a group with a track record of winning under any circumstance down the stretch. On Friday at Target Center, Boston put together a 100-79 victory that gave Minnesota a close-up look at playoff basketball whether they were ready or not.

“You can definitely learn a lot from this team, how hard they play, the mode and how they approach the game at this point in the season,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said. “And it just didn’t seem, myself included, we didn’t have our legs.”

Minnesota simply never got into a rhythm on either end of the floor, and it cost them a shot to pick up a much-needed win at home in the thick of the postseason chase. The end result was dropping to 3.5 games behind the Rockets and Nuggets for the seventh and eight spots in the Western Conference before heading out for their 10th and 11th road games in the span of 13 contests.

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Coach Rick Adelman said it’s not easy to win on the road, and these home games are crucial to their playoff chances. But the Wolves (25-28) simply couldn’t match Boston’s intensity on Friday at Target Center.

“We’ve haven’t won the games we needed to win here,” Adelman said. “Now we have to go on the raod again.”

Minnesota shot 25 percent from the field through much of the first quarter and played catch up from the start, but the Wolves kept within striking distance at 56-45 heading into halftime. The difference came in the second half, when the Celtics—led by Kevin Garnett—revved up their collective effort on defense while chipping away at the Timberwolves on the offensive end.

Garnett set the tone, draping himself on Love through much of the contest and really never letting the Wolves’ All-Star find a comfort zone. Love shot 5-of-18 from the field on the night, a telling tale of how hard Minnesota needed to work to put points on the board.

Still, Love produced a 22-point, 11-rebound effort by battling in the paint, snagging boards and getting to the foul line. He was 10-of-11 from the stripe.

But the Wolves went cold in the second half, particularly from long range. Minnesota shot 0-for-13 from 3-point range after halftime—they shot 6-for-11 in the first half—and finished the game shooting 34.7 percent from the floor while turning the ball over 20 times.

“It was a bad combination of turning it over too much too much and not being able to make shots,” forward Anthony Tolliver said.

Meanwhile, Boston used its patented ball movement to keep its offensive working efficiently from start to finish. The Celtics had 29 assists in the game, including 17 from guard Rajon Rondo—who had two more than the Wolves' 15.

Garnett took over in the fourth, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor and scoring 10 of his 24 points in the final frame. Boston (29-12) outscored the Wolves 21-12 in the fourth.

Guard Luke Ridnour scored 15 points and added eight assists, while Derrick Williams had 14 points and seven rebounds and Tolliver finished with eight points.

For Boston, forward Paul Pierce scored 21 points, guard Avery Bradley had 17 points and Brandon Bass had 12.

The Wolves figured to have an advantage on the boards as Boston ranked 30th in the NBA in rebounding per game coming in, but the two teams finished with 45 rebounds apiece. Love said having injured center Nikola Pekovic (bone spurs in his right ankle) would have added support in that area. Pekovic, JJ Barea (right thigh contusion) and Michael Beasley (left foot) all missed Friday’s game.

“That was huge for us tonight,” Love said. “We could tell we needed Pek’s physicality, we needed more fire power from Mike and JJ.”

Now, the Wolves look to bounce back on the road. After a night off on Saturday, Minnesota faces the Trail Blazers on Sunday and the Kings on Monday.

They’ll try to take the lessons they learned on Friday with them to the West Coast.

“We’ve got to take it upon ourselves to take accountability,” Tolliver said. “There’s no excuse.”

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