With Kemba Walker and Karl-Anthony Towns out, the fans at Target Center lined up for the next best thing: Naz Reid vs. Daniel Theis.
Reid challenged Theis in the first half into foul trouble, as the war on Theis’ defense continued. It didn’t stop his dives and dunks though, with a block above the rim on Malik Beasley and one last soar through traffic to grab his sixth offensive rebound that secured a 127-117 win for the Celtics at the start of their four-game road trip. Theis scored 25 points hitting 9-of-14 field goals with 16 rebounds, a three and 6-of-6 free throw shooting.
D’Angelo Russell kicked off the post-all star break — not exactly the second half — with a welcome air ball. His minutes fell flat, with a 1-for-9 three point shooting line. The Wolves trailed by 14 points with him on the floor, while Malik Beasley’s 27 points on the ball worked more favorably to a one-point advantage. Still, Ryan Saunders pressed Russell into action in the fourth and it led to 5:30 without a Minnesota field goal with under eight minutes left — albeit with this sweet feed.
The Celtics only received significant bench scoring from Brad Wanamaker, who scored six. Their offense still produced 127 points behind four 20-point performances. Minnesota overcame two 10-point deficits in the second half to get within a possession, they never tied or took a lead.
Kemba Walker sat with knee soreness, allowing Marcus Smart to man the ball and start Theis with an open cut and for a pick-and-roll dunk. Like Kelly Olynyk in 2017, the open look fired up Boston’s big
Jayson Tatum hit a driving layup and step-back three from the left wing. Jaylen Brown drove through Josh Okogie’s aggressive perimeter defense for a layup and and-one finish at the rim. The two combined for 53 points.
Gordon Hayward — who scored 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting — used screens to hit a pair of floating mid-range buckets, one while colliding with Kanter’s shoulders. Grant Williams blocked James Johnson at the rim and Smart fed Hayward in transition for a three after ripping the ball from Jarrett Culver’s hands on his drive.
Boston shot only 33% from the field early, but held the Wolves just a step behind at 31% into the second quarter with a 24-20 lead. As Sean Grande noted on the radio broadcast, Boston had lost one game they led by 11 or more points in to this point. They found one early in the third
Wanamaker scored four points, then Reid and Malik Beasley answered from down 10 with two makes at the rim. Beasley and Tatum traded step-back makes, then Tatum ventured to the left corner and bounced behind the line against heavy pressure to convert from three and a 35-25 lead.
The Celtics built their largest lead at 12 midway through the second quarter. Minnesota wouldn’t fall behind any further with the interior pressure it placed on Theis. He picked up his third foul with 3:06 remaining, pressing Vincent Poirier into the game.
Reid faced-up Poirier off the line to send Boston’s defense scrambling to help, and the Wolves set up Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez for spot-up jumpers. Smart used Poirier on the other end to hedge his way to the rim and make a shot off glass. Another attempt fell into Poirier’s hands for a put back.
Minnesota capped the closing 46 seconds with three buckets. Culver slashed to the rim for a slam and Russell set up Hernangomez for a three. Then Beasley hit a half-court heave to complete a six-for-two sequence to pull the Wolves within 61-53 at halftime.
Theis returned to the game cleaning up Brown’s miss and splashing a three to force a timeout. The Wolves burst out of it with four buckets in less than two minutes: Hernangomez finishing inside and out with Beasley doing the same after. Minnesota reached within 72-70 on a 13-4 run.
The game swung around Russell (-14) and Theis (+5) entering and exiting the game, as the refs tagged Theis with a fourth foul after he secured a double-double in the second.
Minnesota pulled within six after trailing by seven, hitting eight straight free throws toward the end of the third. Smart and Hayward paced the Celtics with six points through that sequence, then got saved by Johnson stutter-stepping in transition into a double-dribble that even drew laughs from KAT.
Romeo Langford hit two shots on a three-point foul he drew in the left wing, saving Boston into the fourth with Hayward — who nearly had his fourth straight 30-point game against the Wolves.
Tatum pushed the Celtics ahead by 10 again to start the fourth, with a spot-up three that Jordan McLaughlin deflected off Minnesota’s bench with eight straight points between the quarters. He splashed another three to return within 100-98. Brown, again, reestablished the Celtics with two straight makes inside.
Beasley powered Minnesota’s offense with Russell out, drilling a three and free throws on another 7-2 Wolves turnaround to within one. The Wolves, again, could not extend to a lead, as Theis cleaned up a missed Hayward jumper, who then made his next try from three.
The Celtics stopped three straight tries inside and Brown, controversially, fouled Okogie from behind after Hayward threw a pass away. The officials did not award a clear path foul, and instead of reaching at least within 112-111, the Wolves fell behind 114-109 when Reid fouled Brown with 4:42 remaining.
Hayward dumped a pass to Theis for another finish inside and Tatum burst the Celtics ahead 119-111, before Theis met Beasley at the rim for an absurd rejection. After two more finishes inside from him, Boston secured victory with a strong performance on both ends.