clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Boston Celtics show some grit, win hard-fought battle against Minnesota Timberwolves, 104-102

A surprisingly chippy evening against the Timberwolves resulted in the Celtics’ 48th win of the season

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Losers of four of their last six games — including a letdown performance against the lowly Houston Rockets on Monday night — the Boston Celtics entered tonight’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves desperate for some positive momentum. Though it wasn’t always pretty, they may have found the energy they needed, turning in a gritty defensive performance and making plays down the stretch to win a close game against the Wolves, 104-102.

Jaylen Brown led the way with his second consecutive scintillating performance, scoring 35 points and dominating the Wolves in the second half. Jayson Tatum struggled to find his shot (4-of-16 from the field), but found his way to the free throw line frequently against a foul-happy Minnesota defense, hitting 14-of-16 freebies. For Minnesota, Anthony Edwards had a nice outing, scoring 28 points, but couldn’t carry the Wolves in crunch time.

The Boston offense was anemic, at best, to open up the night. They shot just 32.6% from the field in the first half, including a 5-of-22 line from behind the three-point line. Brown was the most aggressive scorer in the early going, but that aggression didn’t lead to results — he shot 5-of-13 from the field, and outside of a trio of three-pointers, couldn’t find much of a rhythm. Tatum, meanwhile, missed all four of his three-point attempts, though a few early trips to the line helped buoy his performance.

The Celtics locked in defensively, however, and that gave them an edge despite the miserable shooting. Even as their percentages continued to drop, they rattled off a 13-2 run, clamping down on the Wolves to put themselves in the driver’s seat. Midway through the quarter, a small scuffle ensued after Gobert hit Brown with an inadvertent elbow, and the incident seemed to inject some energy into the Wolves. A 9-1 run and a scoring eruption from Edwards — 18 first half points — pulled them back into the game, and the Celtics entered the half with just a one-point lead, 44-43.

The Boston offense found some level of stability as the second half began. After scoring 23 and 21 in the first and second quarters, respectively, they put up 20 in the first five minutes of the third. At the seven-minute mark, Tatum went up for a dunk on Gobert; he slammed it through, but Gobert sent him crashing to the floor with a hit to the face. The Wolves center was tagged with a flagrant-1, and the sequence ended up netting five points in all after Tatum hit the free throw and Brown scored on the ensuing possession. Despite the scary fall, Tatum remained in the game. Wheels appropriately greased, the Celtics rode a 33-point quarter to a 77-71 lead entering the final quarter.

Other than one missed free throw after a Minnesota technical foul, Brown was terrific in the second half of this game. He shot 7-of-11 in the half and bullied his way to the free throw line en route to his game-high scoring night. After a successful Joe Mazzulla challenge reversed an offensive foul call on Brown to an and-one layup, he connected on the free throw to reach the 30-point plateau for the night. A few possessions later, he canned his fifth triple of the night to give the Celtics an eight-point lead with just over seven minutes to play.

The Wolves weren’t quite done yet, and the game remained close after some timely shotmaking from Edwards. They clawed the lead down to two points on an Edwards layup as the clock ticked under four minutes in regulation, but Smart restored a two-possession Boston advantage with some playmaking of his own. The game remained tightly knotted as the clock ticked under a minute to play.

With the game on the line, Celtics ahead by two points, both teams came up empty on their first possessions in the final minute. With 10 seconds remaining, Smart missed a three-point attempt, but Grant Williams grabbed an enormous offensive rebound off the bounce. Williams went to the ground, but in an odd sequence, the officials seemed to miss Mazzulla’s desperate attempts to call timeout, instead ruling a jump ball between Williams and Gobert. The impending crisis was averted, though, after Tatum corralled the jump ball and made both of the free throws after an intentional Minnesota foul to put the Celtics ahead by four points with just a second remaining on the clock.

Next up, the Celtics will enter the second half of their road trip, traveling to Portland to face the Trail Blazers at 8 pm EST on NBC Sports Boston.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog