Smart, Williams Deliver in Clutch, as C’s Sneak by T-Wolves

Jaylen Brown dominated Wednesday night’s matchup in Minnesota from a statistical standpoint, but it was Marcus Smart and Grant Williams who dominated from a clutch standpoint.

Smart made two big buckets in the closing minutes to help his team hold onto a slim lead and then Williams, in the final seconds, came up with a massive offensive rebound followed by a jump-ball win to secure a 104-102 victory at Target Center.

After making just two field goals through the first 44-plus minutes, Smart came alive in crunch time to deliver his team’s final two baskets. At the 3:08 mark, he hit a tough, driving and-one floater to put the C’s on top, 97-93. Rudy Gobert responded on the other end with an alley-oop dunk to cut Minnesota’s deficit to two, but Smart silenced the crowd right away with a driving layup, which re-doubled Boston’s lead.

“We gotta trust each other and trust our teammates,” Brown, who tallied 35 points and 10 rebounds, said of his point guard’s late contributions. “Tonight, Marcus Smart led us down the stretch and we were able to come out with a win. Tomorrow night or the next night it might be someone else. That’s a part of being a good team and we’ve got to keep building those habits.”

Up 101-99 with under 15 seconds remaining, Smart attempted to put the game away with a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer, but his shot clanked off the rim. There were four Timberwolves and one Celtic positioned inside the paint, and it was the lone Celtic – Grant Williams – who somehow came up with the rebound.

The Wolves mauled Williams to the ground, but he held onto the rock to force a jump ball with 3.1 seconds remaining.

Despite being matched up against 7-foot-1 center, Rudy Gobert, Boston’s 6-foot-6 forward won the jump ball with ease, tipping it over to Jayson Tatum in the right corner, where Tatum was then fouled and sent to the free-throw line where he sealed the win.

It was a feel-good moment for Williams, considering how his playing time has been somewhat sparse of late. His head coach had his back after the game, praising his professionalism and emphasizing his importance in the rotation.

“I trust him because he wants to win,” Joe Mazzulla said of Williams. “He’s competitive and I think he’s handled [the recent decrease in playing time] like a competitive person should: not be happy about it, work, do your job, be patient, and when it’s your time – deliver.”

Brown Continues Hot Post-All-Star Stretch

Speaking of delivering, that is all Jaylen Brown has been doing of late.

Brown followed Monday night’s season-high 43-point effort against Houston with a 35-point outpour against Minnesota. His 78 points over those two games were just two points shy of his personal record over a two-game span (80 points scored from 1/2/22 – 1/5/22). In these last two games, Brown shot 28-of-49 from the field, 9-of-18 from 3-point range, and 13-of-16 from the free-throw line.

In 10 games since the All-Star break, Brown has averaged a team-high 28.1 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting from the field. He has scored over 30 points in half of those games, including 32-plus in four of his last seven outings.

Brown says he’s taken it upon himself to help keep the boat afloat during a recent rough stretch in which the Celtics have lost four out of their last seven games.

“I challenge myself anytime adversity hits,” Brown said. “Those are the moments you look to – those are the moments I look to – when everybody is feeling down or the energy is low. Those are the moments where I’m like, ‘OK, let’s get it going. OK let’s come out and play. OK let’s play with a little bit more urgency, let’s play with a little bit more fire.’ Because those are the moments that matter the most in my opinion. Everything is cool and everything is fine when everyone is hitting shots, but when the boat is going down, who’s going to step up and who’s going to be ready to go? I pride myself in being one of those guys.”