The Boston Celtics’ winning ways continued on Sunday evening as TD Garden, as once again, they hosted and summarily dispatched a quality NBA team. This time, the victim was the upstart Minnesota Timberwolves, who have been similarly hot through the month of March as they’ve surged up the Western Conference standings. The Wolves have been playing excellent two-way basketball lately, but they just couldn’t hold up against the Celtics’ relentless scoring attack.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way, as always. The duo combined for a whopping 65 points on the evening, supported by a lively 36-point showing from the rotation players on Boston’s bench. Karl-Anthony Towns got off to a quick start with 12 first-quarter points for the Timberwolves, but the Boston defense contained him from there, holding him to just seven points the rest of the way.
The challenges of containing Towns’ prolific scoring ability were apparent early, especially with Al Horford sitting out the game for personal reasons. The Minnesota big man hit the ground running, exploiting a tough defensive matchup for Grant Williams to the tune of 12 points in the first quarter. Further complicating matters was some sketchy ball control by the Celtics offense, who coughed up seven turnovers in the opening frame against the Timberwolves’ ball hawk defense.
The Boston offense found ways to get it done, however. A quick start from Brown (nine first quarter points) and continued hot shooting from Payton Pritchard helped fend off the Wolves for a 34-30 lead entering the second quarter.
The Celtics’ bench mob asserted themselves as the second quarter began. Derrick White scored the first eight points of the frame, and Pritchard tacked on his third three-pointer of the evening to help stretch Boston’s lead into double digits. Also contributing was the recently returned Aaron Nesmith, who checked in early in the second quarter and provided some quality minutes, including an offensive rebound that lead to an easy put-back layup.
The hot start to the quarter amounted to a 17-4 run that put the Celtics firmly in command of the evening’s proceedings. Though fouls started to pile up in Boston’s shorthanded frontcourt, with Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis all picking up multiple in the first half, the Celtics continued to push their advantage. The Celtics poured in 38 points in the half, and entered the halftime break with a formidable 72-49 advantage.
The second half began with a mini-run from the Wolves, who connected on three consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead back under the 20-point threshold. Their momentum was short-lived. The Celtics ended the run on a Robert Williams put-back, and a few minutes later had the TD Garden crowd on their feet again with an unbelievable off-the-backboard lob from Smart to Brown for a dunk.
The lead hung around the 20-point mark for much of the remainder of the quarter, but the relentless shot-making of Tatum and Brown became too much for the Timberwolves to keep pace with. The duo poured it in through the third quarter, and the team eclipsed 30 points in a quarter for the third time on the evening to take a 106-80 lead into the final frame.
Late in the third quarter, Robert Williams limped off the court with an apparent injury. As play began in the fourth, word came down that he had suffered a knee sprain and would miss the remainder of the game. Further details were not forthcoming, and his long-term status remains to be seen.
The Timberwolves final surge came in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, as they went on a modest 13-6 run to cut the Boston advantage back under 20 points while Tatum rested on the bench. Tatum’s return at the midway of the point proved to be the end of the line for Minnesota. The Celtics pushed the lead back over 20, and never looked back.
Next up, the Celtics will be traveling up north for a road battle against the Toronto Raptors, Monday at 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Boston.
For more postgame coverage of Boston’s hard-fought loss against Dallas, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.