Minnesota at Boston

It's a struggle, but late putback lifts Celtics past Garnett's ex-team

CBSSports.com wire reports
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BOSTON -- The players at the end of the Boston bench kept looking over their shoulders to the tunnel to see if Kevin Garnett was coming back out of the locker room.

They didn't need to worry.

"I wasn't going to do anything that would to jeopardize my future," Garnett said after his last-second steal helped the Boston Celtics beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 87-86 on Friday night. "But my philosophy has always been that if I can play, if I can run, if I can move, if I can blink, if I can wake up in the morning, I'm going to play."

In his first regular-season game against his former team, Garnett poked the ball away from Sebastian Telfair in the final seconds to preserve the victory. The leading vote-getter for next month's All-Star Game, Garnett finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds despite leaving the game for four minutes late in the fourth quarter because of an abdominal strain.

"It felt like I got sniped from the rafters or something, you know," Garnett said. "I just had a sharp pain come from my stomach and I just wanted the doctors to look at it. They looked at it and said I was fine, so I came back out."

The doctor said Garnett could go back in, but the trainer said no, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, holding one thumb up and one thumb down. Eventually, Garnett begged his way back onto the court.

When he did, the Timberwolves had an 86-81 lead with 1:51 left and the ball. They did not score again.

"We were lucky to win," Rivers said. "It didn't look like it was going to happen."

Kendrick Perkins scored on a putback with 16.6 seconds left, finishing with 21 points to help Boston beat a team stocked with a handful of players sent to Minnesota in last summer's trade for Garnett. Paul Pierce had 19 points and eight assists to help the Celtics bounce back after Wednesday's loss to Toronto -- just their seventh loss in the first 40 games this season.

Telfair scored 18 points, and fellow ex-Celtics Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes had 15 and 13, respectively. Craig Smith, who played at Boston College, had 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves as they missed a chance to extend their season-high two-game winning streak to three.

"I've been in the league long enough to know that players who come back are going to be attacking," Rivers told his players. "They want to show the fans, they want to show the coach and the GM what a mistake they made, and they want to show you, too."

But Garnett beat his former team, which acquired five players and two draft picks last summer to send him to Boston and help the Celtics turn what had been one of the worst teams in the NBA last year into this year's best.

As good as the Celtics have been with Garnett, that's how bad Minnesota has been without him. Adding Antoine Walker to the five other ex-Celtics, the Timberwolves won just five of their first 39 games to fall to the bottom of the NBA standings.

But the Timberwolves of the past week have been a different team. After blowing a last-minute lead against Northwest Division-leading Denver last Saturday, they put together their first winning streak of the season, beating Golden State and Phoenix, the best team in the West.

Gomes scored a career-high 35 points to beat the Warriors, and Jefferson had a career best 39 points to go with 15 rebounds against the Suns.

"We're trying to learn how to win games like this, and we're putting ourselves in position to do it," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "This is a tough one to swallow, but it's one we will learn from."

On Friday, the new Timberwolves saw the team they left behind.

Despite having virtually the opposite record as the NBA-leading Celtics -- 7-34 against 33-7 -- the Timberwolves led Boston by six points, 78-72 with four minutes left. They also had the ball and had Garnett in the locker room.

Garnett got back on the court just in time to see Pierce hit a pair of free throws that cut the deficit to 86-83. An offensive rebound and a traveling call against Pierce gave the Timberwolves three chances to extend the lead, but instead Boston cut it to one point on Pierce's fifth-chance putback with 23.2 seconds left.

When Corey Brewer couldn't inbound the ball for Minnesota in time, the Celtics got a chance to take the lead. Ray Allen swept around the lane and missed a layup, but Perkins put it back in to give Boston the 87-86 lead.

Tough defense forced Marko Jaric to call timeout on the ensuing inbounds pass, and when he finally got it in the Timberwolves worked it around before Garnett knocked it away from Telfair at midcourt.

Notes

  • Perkins also had three blocked shots.
  • The Celtics turned the ball over on six straight possessions down the stretch.
  • Garnett and Jefferson were called for technicals in the first quarter for jawing while waiting for a free throw.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
 
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Kevin Garnett shakes off an injury to steal the ball and end Minnesota's chances.  (Getty Images)
Kevin Garnett shakes off an injury to steal the ball and end Minnesota's chances. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
Minnesota (7-35) 3017211886
Boston (34-7) «2921172087
MIN:S. Telfair 18 Pts
MIN:C. Smith 10 Reb
MIN:S. Telfair 6 Ast
BOS:K. Perkins 21 Pts
BOS:K. Garnett 16 Reb
BOS:P. Pierce 8 Ast
Players of the Game
BostonMinnesota

K. Garnett

S. Telfair
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
101621836
Minnesota
S. Telfair, PG427-142-236318
A. Jefferson, PF346-143-452415
R. Gomes, PF345-113-332213
R. McCants, SG315-100-071212
M. Jaric, SF301-51-22114
C. Brewer, SF254-80-00038
A. Walker, SF151-60-02033
G. Green, SG153-93-53219
C. Smith, PF142-60-010234
T. Ratliff, CDid Not Play
G. Buckner, SGDid Not Play
M. Doleac, CDid Not Play
M. Madsen, PFDid Not Play
R. Foye, PGDid Not Play
C. Richard, PFDid Not Play
Totals 34-8312-1635162286
 41.0%75.0% 
Boston
P. Pierce, SG424-1510-1098119
R. Allen, SG404-182-242212
R. Rondo, PG342-60-03424
K. Garnett, PF314-52-2162110
K. Perkins, C278-105-840321
T. Allen, SG202-73-56037
G. Davis, PF201-12-23134
E. House, SG141-40-00013
L. Powe, PF113-31-12017
S. Pollard, CDid Not Play
J. Posey, SFDid Not Play
B. Scalabrine, PFDid Not Play
G. Pruitt, PGDid Not Play
Totals 29-6925-3047171787
 42.0%83.3% 
Other Games
Pho 110 Final
Cle 108
Mem 93 Final
Wash 104
Mil 75 Final
Tor 106
Orl 93 Final
Det 101
Phi 81 Final
NY 89
LAC 92 Final
NO 111
Char 90 Final
Chi 77
LAL 105 Final
Dal 112
NJ 85 Final
Den 100
Sac 113 Final
Utah 127
Hou 89 Final
Port 79
Atl 99 Final
Sea 90