Celtics put together a solid performance in 117-104 win over Timberwolves

Celtics put together a solid performance in 117-104 win over Timberwolves

BOSTON – We have seen time and time again the Boston Celtics deliver a sterling performance followed by a stinker.

Facing a Minnesota team whose play of late far exceeds their overall record, this game had ‘Celtics letdown’ written all over it.

Instead, the Celtics turned in yet another near-complete performance in beating Minnesota 117-104.


The win extended Boston’s dominance at home over the Timberwolves to 11 in a row.

But even more important, the Celtics (43-25) put a little more separation between themselves and the third-place Washington Wizards (41-25)  who lost at Dallas, while moving them just a bit closer to top-seeded Cleveland (44-22) which was idle on Wednesday night.

Head coach Brad Stevens says he doesn’t pay attention to the standings, but prefers to instead stay in the moment, focus on the task and opponent before him.

That mantra works for him.

But the Celtics players are not immune to social media and friends and other NBA games being played. They know they are in a down-to-the-wire fight for one of the top spots in the East, and they need every win they can get. And that means playing with a heightened sense of urgency, something that was on display in the second half of Wednesday’s game against a Minnesota team that has knocked off a number of NBA powers recently.

Golden State. Washington. Utah. All have been slayed in the recent days by the upstart Timberwolves.

But the Celtics refused to be a part of another Minnesota massacre, getting big contributions from just about every player who stepped on the floor for them.

However, the play of Al Horford stood head and shoulders above all others.

He’s no stranger to filling up the stat sheet for the Celtics this season. But Wednesday was different. He wasn’t just racking up stats.

Horford played what may have been his most impactful game this season, as he pushed, shoved, banged … did whatever he could to get his hands on the ball whether it was rebounding, blocking shots, altering shots or finding teammates open for great looks at the rim while often passing up good shots for himself.

He would finish with a near triple-double of 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Isaiah Thomas continued to be the man leading the scoring pack for Boston, with 27 points.

But the Timberwolves showed some fight, even after they fell behind by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota fought, but the Celtics … they were just better.

Karl-Anthony Towns, who has emerged as one of the premier big men in the NBA, was a central figure in Minnesota’s efforts at pulling off an upset.

But Horford and Amir Johnson’s interior defense kept him from dominating the action down the stretch.

And Minnesota’s other players were solid, but the Celtics refused to let any of them get into any kind of rhythm which was similar to what they did defensively when they smashed the Bulls 100-80 on Sunday.

But Minnesota was a much feistier, combative foe which is what you would expect from a Tom Thibodeau-coached team.

But as the fourth quarter drew to a close, it was becoming quite clear that the Celtics were not going to let up their intensity at both ends of the floor.

It was a game in which they played with the kind of consistency that they’ll need if they are to continue to play well down the stretch and into the playoffs.

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”