For decades, the Boston Celtics have gotten used to making history as a result of their stellar play. On Sunday, they will try to avoid adding another chapter due to their prolonged struggles of late.
Boston will try to snap a franchise-record 17-game losing streak Sunday when it meets the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
With a 92-78 defeat to New Jersey on Friday, the Celtics (12-37) have dropped 17 in a row since winning at Memphis on Jan. 5. It’s the NBA’s longest skid since Feb. 5-March 10, 1999 when the Los Angeles Clippers also lost 17 straight, and a loss to Minnesota would leave Boston in sole possession of the NBA’s fourth-longest losing streak in league history.
The Vancouver Grizzlies lost 23 in a row from Feb. 16-April 2, 1996 and Denver also lost 23 straight from Dec. 19, 1997-Jan. 23, 1998. Cleveland owns the longest losing streak in NBA history, dropping 24 in a row over two seasons from March 19-Nov. 5, 1982
Delonte West scored 21 points and Al Jefferson added 13 and 17 rebounds for the Celtics, who welcomed Paul Pierce back into the lineup for the first time since Dec. 20. He went 0-for-7 in the first half, and scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter.
“I missed a couple of layups, stuff that I usually make,” said Pierce, who missed 24 games with a stress reaction in his left foot and surgery to repair an infected left elbow. “The first two times up and down the court, your adrenaline is flowing and you want things to happen so fast. You feel like you can come back and do the things you could before you got injured. But I’m patient and I’m mentally strong, and I’m going to get through it.”
Pierce may have been rusty Friday, but after going 2-22 without their franchise player, the Celtics are happy to have him back in the lineup.
“I think just by him being on the court with us put us on a whole other level,” Jefferson said. “When we do get him back and get his groove going I really believe we will be a better team.”
Pierce is averaging 25.1 points in seven games in Minnesota, with the Celtics going 5-2. Boston also had won five in a row in Minneapolis before falling 110-85 on Jan. 30, 2006.
Including this contest, Boston plays six of its next seven on the road, including three matchups in four nights against Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah. The Celtics are 4-13 against the West this season.
The Timberwolves (23-27) enter this contest having lost 11 of their last 14, most recently a 105-97 overtime defeat to Memphis on Friday.
“We have total disregard for the game,” said Minnesota interim coach Randy Wittman, who is 3-7 since taking over the team on Jan. 23. “We take shots that have a one-in-five chance. We try no-look passes to nobody. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Mark Blount—a former Celtic—had 25 points and Kevin Garnett added 20 and 17 rebounds in the losss. The Wolves, who average 15.9 turnovers, had 16 turnovers in the second half that led to 16 Memphis points.
“We fell apart,” said Ricky Davis, another ex-Celtic, who had 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. “Our shots were bad. It should have ended in regulation. We had the lead late in the game.”
The teams will close out their season series on March 4 in Boston.