MINNEAPOLIS -- Gordon Hayward isn’t all that different than most NBA players who, for whatever reason, seem to play some of their best basketball against certain teams.
For Hayward, that would be the Minnesota Timberpups, who once again had no answer for what has been an unquestioned dominance he has had over this franchise for years in Boston’s 127-117 win.
He led the Celtics with 29 points on an efficient 12-for-17 shooting along with five rebounds and six assists.
It was the fourth straight time Hayward has scored at least 29 points against Minnesota (three with Boston, one with Utah).
And while Boston and Minnesota may be hundreds of miles apart in terms of geography and wins, the Timberwolves were neck-and-neck with the Celtics in the second half on Friday.
The Celtics spent most of the game playing with a lead, but the Timberpups played a scrappy brand of basketball that kept them within striking distance down the stretch.
And that lead that Boston was milking, was heavily aided by the scoring of Hayward.
It didn’t matter who Minnesota tried to match up on him defensively.
Hayward was getting to whatever spot he wanted to, when he wanted to get there.
But the Celtics found themselves having a much tougher go of things when it came to putting the Timberwolves away following a jumper by rookie Jordan McLaughlin that cut Boston’s lead to 100-98 with 8:56 to play.
But the Celtics continued to play with a lead, slimmer than it was earlier in the game, before putting the game away for the victory.
With Kemba Walker (left knee) out, it was a given that Jayson Tatum would be looked upon to be more of an offensive force than usual. He did his part for most of Friday’s game against the Timberpups, finishing with 28 points on 8-for-21 shooting from the field to go with 11 rebounds.
But more than the points scored, the ease at which Tatum got to anywhere he wanted to all game long was a reminder of just how talented the 21-year-old is now, and how vast his potential going forward is for the Celtics.
At one point in the third quarter, Tatum seemed to get sidetracked by a back-and-forth exchange with Minnesota’s James Johnson who moments later, blocked a Tatum 3-pointer and had an uncontested dunk if not for him committing a double-dribble violation.
He would soon regain his composure, but it should serve as a cautionary for the 21-year-old Tatum who is now an All-Star and with that, a bigger target for guys trying to throw him off his game.
He showed that cool-under-pressure demeanor in the final minutes with a deep 3-pointer to push Boston’s lead to 119-111 with just under four minutes to play.
THE NEWEST TIMBERPUPS
The Timberwolves added a handful of new guys to their roster at the trade deadline, a group headlined by former All-Star D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley.
No surprise, with a new team and a new, more prominent role for both players, they didn’t waste much time making an impact on the game and more important, giving the Celtics problems.
Russell had 18 points on 5-for-14 shooting while Beasley led all Timberwolves players with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting.
The Celtics need to get used to this because they will be seeing quite a few teams in the coming weeks who will have a new look courtesy of deadline acquisitions.
Playing good defense, rebounding and throwing in an occasional basket here and there has been what Daniel Theis has been about this season.
But he was much more than that on Friday night, tallying a career-high 25 points along with grabbing 16 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season.
His activity around the glass will be vital looking ahead, especially as his value continues to rise and backup Enes Kanter’s role continues to be sporadic at best.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.