Forget the last game, they said. Forget those Baby Wolves, with their fourth-quarter woes. This is the NBA’s best defense since the All-Star break, after all.
Memories of the fall of 2016 were fresh Wednesday night, as the Boston Celtics slaughtered the Minnesota Timberwolves 59-44 in the second half, en route to a 117-104 win.
The Celtics’ 34 assists were their most in a game since January 7 and their third-best performance of the year, with Al Horford nearly completing the team’s first triple-double of the season, contributing 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Horford helped hold Karl-Anthony Towns in check, as the emerging star left the Garden with just 17 points in 40 minutes. To his credit, Towns did wrangle a game-high 14 rebounds.
“I just think it was the way they were playing us,” Horford told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after the game. “Also I was getting a lot of looks in the post and I was just trying to be aggressive.”
The Celtics took some time to build steam, but they are gaining momentum at just the right time.
“I think we’ve been talking a lot about us begin inconsistent at times,” Horford said. “We just want to build good habits.”
He blew away teammate Avery Bradley, who was a major beneficiary of the Celtics’ ball movement Wednesday.
“He might be the best passer on our team and one of the best passers in the NBA to me,” Bradley told reporters. “I just think that he’s willing to pass more than anything. We like to get the ball in his hands because we know he’s going to make the right play the majority of the time.
“His play making ability is just amazing. He gets everyone going and he’s so positive and he sacrifices a lot for this team and it doesnt go unnoticed. we appreciate him and he is definitely a great addition to this team.”
Isaiah Thomas’s 27 points led the Celtics in scoring for the 32nd straight time, the longest streak in the NBA since Kobe Bryant’s 34 straight in his notorious ‘05-’06 season on the disastrous Lakers. Thomas even channeled his inner Rajon Rondo a game after facing the former Celtic, slipping by Karl Towns with a deft Rondo fake behind his back.
Isaiah Thomas continues to put on a show in the Garden! pic.twitter.com/OI1Hi2RvHn— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 16, 2017
It was the first time all season that Thomas and Avery Bradley hit 4 threes in the same game, showing the versatility the Celtics can display now that they are fully healthy.
“I think it was just moving the ball side to side and executing our game plan,” Bradley said.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “It’s only been a few games of us being healthy. I like the way we’re looking right now.”
With the Washington Wizards falling short of a furious comeback in which John Wall sprained his ankle and returned for some late-game heroics, the Celtics built themselves a 1.5-game cushion for the second seed. They remain two games back of the Cavs with fifteen games to go.