Celtics-T'Wolves takeaways: C's collapse again in crunch time


Of all the terrible losses the Boston Celtics have suffered this season, Monday night's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves takes the cake.

The C's fell 108-103 to a T'Wolves team that played without four of its starters, including Karl-Anthony Towns. Boston was short-handed as well with Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and seven others sidelined, but Minnesota dominated the second half with players who usually aren't even part of the rotation.

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Here are three quick takeaways from the Celtics' loss, which brings them to 16-18 on the season. They'll look to snap their two-game skid Wednesday night when they host the Los Angeles Clippers.

Celtics collapse again in crunch time

Boston held an 11-point lead over Minnesota at halftime but as this team has shown all season, no lead is safe.

Simply put, the Celtics were outclassed by a borderline G League team in the second half. They were outscored by six in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth. In those final 12 minutes, they allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 12-for-19 from the floor.

It's the C's second collapse in as many games. They blew a 13-point lead with five minutes remaining in their Christmas Day loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

With Monday night's defeat, the Celtics are now tied for the NBA lead with 13 clutch-time (up or down five points in final five minutes) losses. This team continues to find new ways to beat themselves. This time around, it was poor fourth-quarter defense and five missed fourth-quarter free throws.


Greg Monroe and Co. dominate

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Greg Monroe, who joined the Timberwolves on a 10-day contract Sunday, dominated the Celtics in his first NBA game since 2019.

The 31-year-old big man notched 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 25 minutes off the bench.

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough for Boston, it also allowed career nights from Nathan Knight and Jaylen Nowell.

Knight torched the C's for 20 points after not tallying more than eight points all season. He also brought down a game-high 11 boards.

Nowell dropped a career-high 29 points while shooting 6-of-9 from 3-point range off the bench. He added insult to injury by putting Jabari Parker on a poster.

The Timberwolves deserve plenty of credit for overcoming their short-handedness and outhustling the Celtics. That said, their performance was more of an indictment of the C's than anything else.

Jayson Tatum's absence is glaring

Jaylen Brown had been playing well alongside Tatum in his return from injury, but he struggled mightily without Tatum in Monday night's loss.

Brown scored 26 points but turned the ball over six times and shot just 8-of-24 from the field. He took accountability for his less-than-stellar performance after the game.

"We didn't play well today. I didn't play well today. I let my team down for sure," Brown told reporters.

There were some bright spots. Al Horford and Grant Williams returned from health and safety protocols to chip in 16 and 15 points, respectively. Horford added nine rebounds and six assists, and Williams picked up where he left off by going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Payton Pritchard made his first start of the season and contributed 23 points. He wasn't all that efficient as he shot 8-of-22 from the field, but the second-year guard continues to look confident on the court now that he's back to getting consistent minutes. It just wasn't enough to make up for the Celtics' two-time All-Star's noticeable absence.