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Marcus Smart scores 18, Boston tops Minnesota 91-84

BOSTON (AP) Defense dominated as Boston went back-and-forth with Minnesota for three quarters.

The fourth belonged to the Celtics, who pulled away early in the final period and held off the Timberwolves 91-84 on Friday night.

''We just stuck with it and the defense came and gave us a victory,'' said Marcus Smart, who led Boston with 18 points. ''Tonight was one of those games where every last one of us from the starters to the guys coming in off the bench were ready.''

Smart scored 16 in the second half and fellow reserve Terry Rozier finished with 14 points for the Celtics, whose bench outscored Minnesota's 42-20.

''We played pretty good defense tonight. That's what pushed us over at the end,'' said Rozier, who added nine rebounds. ''Once we locked in on the defensive end, we were fine. Create our offense by creating defense.''

Kyrie Irving had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Aron Baynes had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Jaylen Brown also scored 11 for Boston, which has won five straight and six of seven.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 25 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. Jimmy Butler scored 14, Jamal Crawford had 13 points and Andrew Wiggins scored 10 for Minnesota, which lost back-to-back games for the first time since November.

''I think we did a pretty good job defensively making it hard on them. We just didn't make the shots we needed to make,'' Towns said. ''We fought very hard offensively. It just was a funky night for us.''

Boston had a rough night shooting, going 38 for 94 (40.4 percent) and making just 6 of 36 3-pointers. Minnesota also struggled, shooting 36.8 percent from the field.

''They are a good team,'' Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''You've got to play 48 minutes against them to win. We didn't do that. We had a little lull at the start of the fourth.''

The Timberwolves, coming off a 98-97 loss at Brooklyn on Wednesday, faded early in the fourth after leading by as many as seven in what had been a tight game. The lead changed 14 times before Boston went up for good in the final period.

Irving drove for a layup with one second left in the third, starting a 10-2 run that allowed the Celtics to start pulling away. Baynes scored Boston's first four points of the final period, and Rozier banked in a shot and then added a 3-pointer with 8:02 left that gave the Celtics a 77-68 lead.

Boston continued its run, getting a dunk by Baynes followed by a steal by Smart that started a fast break and sent Smart to the line for two free throws that pushed the lead to 85-73 with 6:05 remaining.

PLAYING SMART

Boston coach Brad Stevens said Smart is a luxury to have coming off the bench for the Celtics. He scored 16 on Wednesday night as Boston beat Cleveland 102-88 in a rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals, and then led Boston in scoring Friday when the Celtics needed a late push to pull away from Minnesota.

''Sometimes when we're struggling, I think the ball is going to find energy. And Marcus Smart has energy,'' Stevens said. ''He's playing at a good level. We need him to continue to do so. Obviously, he's a really important part of our team.''

REBOUNDING WOES

Towns pulled down more than half of the Timberwolves' 43 rebounds, and no other Minnesota player had more than four as Boston dominated the glass 56-43.

''We've just got to make a conscious effort to go get them. We can't just rely on Kat (Towns) to get every single rebound,'' Butler said. ''He did a great job of it, but we've got to help him. He can't be everywhere on the floor.''

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Hadn't lost back-to-back games since Nov. 19 against Detroit and the following night at Charlotte. ... Lost their 11th straight at Boston. ... Towns had a double-double by halftime with 14 points and 13 rebounds in the first two quarters. His previous career high was 22 rebounds against Houston last Feb. 25, and the most he pulled down this season was 19 against Oklahoma City on Oct. 27.

Celtics: Aren't home again until Jan. 16, a stretch that includes a game in London against Philadelphia on Jan. 11. ... Boston swept the two games against Minnesota last season. ... The Celtics shot 20 percent (3 for 15) from 3-point range in the first half.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.

Celtics: Visit the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

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Key Players
K. Towns
32 C
K. Irving
11 PG
32.3 Min. Per Game 32.3
24.4 Pts. Per Game 24.4
4.9 Ast. Per Game 4.9
3.3 Reb. Per Game 3.3
53.2 Field Goal % 48.4
52.9 Three Point % 48.5
83.0 Free Throw % 88.6
+ 3 Tyus Jones made 3-pt. jump shot 0:11
+ 2 Jaylen Brown made turnaround jump shot, assist by Marcus Smart 0:15
  Personal foul on Karl-Anthony Towns 0:38
+ 2 Karl-Anthony Towns made dunk, assist by Tyus Jones 0:39
  Defensive rebound by Taj Gibson 0:43
  Kyrie Irving missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:47
+ 1 Andrew Wiggins made 2nd of 2 free throws 1:11
  Team rebound 1:11
  Andrew Wiggins missed 1st of 2 free throws 1:11
  Shooting foul on Jaylen Brown 1:11
  Defensive rebound by Karl-Anthony Towns 1:15
Team Stats
Points 84 91
Field Goals 28-76 (36.8%) 38-94 (40.4%)
3-Pointers 7-23 (30.4%) 6-36 (16.7%)
Free Throws 21-28 (75.0%) 9-13 (69.2%)
Total Rebounds 52 63
Offensive 9 17
Defensive 34 39
Team 9 7
Assists 15 24
Steals 6 6
Blocks 5 4
Turnovers 12 10
Fouls 15 22
Technicals 0 0
25 PTS, 23 REB, 1 AST
16 PTS, 9 REB, 8 AST
1234T
away team logo Timberwolves 24-16 1919242284
home team logo Celtics 32-10 1922252591
Team Stats
away team logo Timberwolves 24-16 101.6 PPG 45.2 RPG 22.4 APG
home team logo Celtics 32-10 101.4 PPG 41.7 RPG 21.2 APG
Key Players
K. Towns C 21.3 PPG 12.3 RPG 2.4 APG 54.5 FG%
M. Smart PG 10.2 PPG 3.5 RPG 4.8 APG 36.7 FG%
Top Scorers
K. Towns C 25 PTS 23 REB 1 AST
M. Smart PG 18 PTS 3 REB 3 AST
36.8 FG% 40.4
30.4 3PT FG% 16.7
75.0 FT% 69.2
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Towns 42 25 23 1 0 2 0 2 9/16 1/4 6/6 2 21 52 0
J. Butler 34 14 2 6 3 0 4 1 3/12 0/3 8/10 2 0 27 -2
A. Wiggins 36 10 3 1 1 2 2 3 3/12 1/4 3/6 1 2 16 +2
T. Gibson 34 8 3 2 0 0 2 1 3/8 0/0 2/2 2 1 13 +2
T. Jones 29 7 2 3 1 0 0 5 3/7 1/3 0/0 0 2 16 -8
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Towns 42 25 23 1 0 2 0 2 9/16 1/4 6/6 2 21 52 0
J. Butler 34 14 2 6 3 0 4 1 3/12 0/3 8/10 2 0 27 -2
A. Wiggins 36 10 3 1 1 2 2 3 3/12 1/4 3/6 1 2 16 +2
T. Gibson 34 8 3 2 0 0 2 1 3/8 0/0 2/2 2 1 13 +2
T. Jones 29 7 2 3 1 0 0 5 3/7 1/3 0/0 0 2 16 -8
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Crawford 18 13 3 0 0 1 3 0 4/8 4/5 1/2 0 3 14 -11
A. Brooks 15 4 1 2 1 0 0 1 2/7 0/2 0/0 0 1 10 +2
N. Bjelica 10 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 1/5 0/2 0/0 2 0 4 -2
G. Dieng 17 1 4 0 0 0 1 1 0/1 0/0 1/2 0 4 4 -16
M. Georges-Hunt 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 0 -2
J. Teague - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Aldrich - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Brown - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Muhammad - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Patton - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 236 84 43 15 6 5 12 15 28/76 7/23 21/28 9 34 156 -35
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Irving 36 16 9 8 2 0 2 4 6/16 1/4 3/4 1 8 41 +2
A. Baynes 26 11 10 1 0 1 0 3 5/13 0/0 1/2 2 8 24 +7
J. Brown 32 11 5 1 0 2 1 5 4/15 1/6 2/2 2 3 19 +3
A. Horford 31 7 5 8 1 1 2 2 3/9 1/5 0/1 2 3 28 -3
J. Tatum 30 4 3 1 1 0 0 1 2/7 0/4 0/0 1 2 10 -11
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Irving 36 16 9 8 2 0 2 4 6/16 1/4 3/4 1 8 41 +2
A. Baynes 26 11 10 1 0 1 0 3 5/13 0/0 1/2 2 8 24 +7
J. Brown 32 11 5 1 0 2 1 5 4/15 1/6 2/2 2 3 19 +3
A. Horford 31 7 5 8 1 1 2 2 3/9 1/5 0/1 2 3 28 -3
J. Tatum 30 4 3 1 1 0 0 1 2/7 0/4 0/0 1 2 10 -11
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
M. Smart 28 18 3 3 1 0 0 1 8/13 0/4 2/2 2 1 28 +17
T. Rozier 21 14 9 1 0 0 1 1 6/11 2/7 0/0 2 7 24 +14
D. Theis 24 8 10 1 1 0 3 4 3/8 1/5 1/2 4 6 18 +5
G. Yabusele 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1/1 0/0 0/0 1 0 2 +2
S. Ojeleye 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 1 1 -1
M. Morris - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Hayward - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Nader - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Larkin - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Bird - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Allen - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 233 91 56 24 6 4 10 22 38/94 6/36 9/13 17 39 195 +35