BOSTON – The thinking was given more time to practice, the Celtics would be able to clean up some of the slippage we saw in a rough patch of play in December.
Still, instead of more practice reps, having a chance to rest has been a key to the team’s recent formula for success.
- BLAKELY'S Stars, Studs & Duds: Smart warms cold-shooting C's
- Rozier and bench lead way past T'Wolves
- VIDEO - Tatum posterizes Karl-Anthony Towns with thunderous dunk
That was made abundantly clear in Boston’s 91-84 win over Minnesota on Friday night.
It was a relatively close game, but it was a game in which Boston seemed to play with a little more bounce, more energy than we had seen a couple weeks ago.
“Well, we’ve had two practices and a snow day,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I think the most important thing has been the off-time. I thought it helped our defensive intensity.”
Shot-making proved difficult for both teams most of the night, but it was Boston that ratcheted up its play defensively in the fourth that led to six, fourth-quarter points off of Minnesota mistakes while Boston turned the ball over three times in the fourth without it costing them a single point.
And the team’s strong surge in the fourth was fueled by the defense as well as some timely shot-making.
After a Jamal Crawford 3-pointer early in the fourth brought the Timberwolves within 66-65, the Celtics responded with a 19-8 run to take a 12-point lead (85-73) which was their largest lead of the night.
From there, the Celtics' control of the game was never an issue as Boston (32-10) extended its winning streak to five.
“Our defensive intensity and focus was great all night,” Stevens said. “And then to win a game like this against a really good team where you can’t make a shot is, you know, that’s a good thing. Because you’re going to have nights like that, and you just have to find a way.”
Finding that path towards success is easier to discover with a little more rest, something the Celtics can attest to.
Terry Rozier, who had a near double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench, was asked about where this sudden surge of energy has come from.
“It’s coming from a little bit of everybody,” he said. “We got a lot of games. We play a lot of games. You’ve got to find a way to get your energy going, and some games the first unit will start off well, and sometimes our second group picks us up. We just got to find ways to come out with a lot of energy through these games because it’s tough.”