Monday, February 22, 2016

Timberwolves 124 - Celtics 122: Anthony-Towns, T-Wolves fend off late comeback

The Celtics almost completed an enormous comeback in the final 82 seconds of the game but were ultimately defeated by the lowly Timberwolves, 124-122 in Minnesota on Monday.

With 1:22 left, the Celtics went on a 9-3 run -- snapping the Timberwolves' 10-point lead in half before Avery Bradley nailed a 3-pointer to bring the Celtics to within one point with 6.2 seconds left. After dunk champion Zach Lavine split a pair of free-throws, Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who had an open Isaiah Thomas on the left side of the court, pulled up for a contested game-winning 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim as the game clock expired.

Jae Crowder tied a career-high 27 points and dished nine assists while Avery Bradley scored 22 points and Isaiah Thomas added 18 points and nine assists to lead the Celtics.

The draft's no.1 overall pick, Karl Anthony-Towns scored a game-high 28 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves, Gorgui Dieng also had a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Andrew Wiggins finished with 17 points.

The Timberwolves got off to a quick start in the fourth quarter -- where Towns scored 15 of his 28 points. The Celtics managed to outscore the Timberwolves, 30-28 in the second quarter but still trailed Minnesota before heading into the final frame. In what turned out to be a crucial bucket, Dieng's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave his team a 9-point lead.

Minnesota fought to keep their lead throughout the fourth quarter. They out-rebounded the Celtics, defended the paint and forced the Celtics to take a lot perimeter jumpers. Midway through the fourth, the Celtics came up short on four consecutive field goal attempts. It was a crucial point in the game where the Celtics could have crawled back. But in the final 3:28, the Timberwolves didn't make a single field goal -- handing the Celtics another chance to make a comeback.

The Celtics took advantage by getting to the free-throw line, hitting big 3-pointers (Jae Crowder, Bradley) and their stifling defense coerced the Timberwolves to make costly turnovers throughout the final minute. However, the Celtics' defense committed way too many fouls throughout the night and put the Timberwolves at the line a lot in the fourth quarter (before the intentional fouls). The Celtics committed 27 fouls and the Timberwolves made 30-of-40 from the free-throw line, including 19-of-22 in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics (33-25) finished their three-game road trip with a 1-2 record. They were leapfrogged by the Bulls for third place in the Eastern Conference. Celtics will have a couple of days off before they return home to play the Bucks at TD Garden.

Game Notes: 

The Timberwolves' big men, Towns and Dieng were the difference makers. They combined for 45 points and 25 rebounds. The Timberwolves were a plus-13 on boards (51-38) and never let the Celtics get into their offensive rhythm until the final minutes of the game... Smart knew he made the wrong decision but was in a very emotional state when he took the final shot of the night. After intentionally fouling Lavine, Smart was hit in the mouth but dramatically fell to the floor in an effort to force the official to whistle an offensive foul on Lavine. While Lavine was shooting his free-throws, Smart was still yelling to the referees about the call. He took the inbound pass shortly afterward, ran down the court and took a 3-pointer in what seemed like a frustration shot. After the miss, he quickly looked at Thomas and his teammates and while pointing at his own chest, gave the old "that was my bad" gesture.

Josue Pavon
Twitter: @Joe_Sway10

photo courtesy of associated press

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