Celtics 80, Timberwolves 77
After being hit by an elbow in the first half, Welsch scored 18 points in the second—including 14 in the fourth quarter—to lead Boston over the Minnesota Timberwolves 80-77 Sunday night.
“I don’t know if I got hit by one of their guys or our guys,” said Welsch, whose nose was noticeably swollen after the first-quarter shot. “I had to put some (tissue) up there to stop the bleeding.”
Welsch sat for most of the second and third quarters, but by the time he came back the tissue was gone and he was poised to lead Boston back from a 13-point deficit.
“I just let the game come back to me in the second half,” he said.
Chris Mihm had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Chucky Atkins added 12 points for Boston, which won its fifth straight after losing 12 of its first 13 games under interim head coach John Carroll.
Boston’s five-game winning streak matches its season high.
“I’m just happy Jiri was able to come back because we needed it,” Atkins said. “I didn’t have any idea he would get hot like that, but I’m glad he did.”
“It’s one of our biggest wins of the year against a team that many people expect to be in the finals,” Pierce said. “Kevin Garnett is definitely the MVP in my eyes, but we are fighting for our playoff lives.”
Garnett had 20 points and 14 rebounds and Michael Olowokandi added his first double-double of the season, but Minnesota lost consecutive games for just the third time this season.
“We got up 13 and lost that killer instinct,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “This has happened two times in a week and its disappointing.”
Olowokandi had 10 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“This was a very difficult loss,” said Olowokandi in a quiet and mostly empty Wolves locker room. “This game will make you better or break you down.”
Boston’s reserves scored 35 points on a poor shooting night for both teams. The Celtics shot 33 percent, and Minnesota made just 35.9 percent of its attempts.
Pierce made two free throws with 1.6 seconds left before the Wolves called timeout and set up a final play. Cassell, who scored 13 points, got open and launched a straightaway 3-pointer that went off the front rim as the buzzer sounded.
After trailing 58-53 at the start of the fourth quarter, Welsch hit two 3-pointers, a driving layup, two free throws and a jumper to help the Celtics to a 74-68 advantage with 3:38 left.
Cassell hit a jumper and Troy Hudson hit his first shot of the game after seven misses to make it 74-72 with 1:38 left. Minnesota had a chance to tie it on the next possession, but Hudson missed a floater. Welsch got the long rebound and raced down the court for an uncontested dunk.
After a dunk by Garnett and two free throws by Atkins, Hudson hit a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to make it 78-77.
Atkins scored Boston’s first six points of the second half and the Celtics took their first lead since the opening seconds of the game, 41-39. But the Timberwolves went on a 12-2 run, capped by Cassell’s 3-pointer, to go ahead 52-43 with 6:04 left.
Minnesota extended its lead to 58-45 before the Celtics closed the quarter with eight unanswered points.
The Celtics scored the first two points of the game, but missed their next 14 shots—with five of them blocked. Boston’s starters shot just 2-for-25 in first half.
Referee Michael Henderson was working his first game after making a bad call that was publicly acknowledged by the NBA in the final seconds of the Lakers’112-111 victory at Denver on Feb. 26.
Garnett also had six assists in recording his league-leading 55th double-double. … Sprewell is shooting just 24-for-71 (.338) in his last five games. … Fred Hoiberg, who has missed three games, said that his sprained wrist is getting better and he hopes to play Tuesday at Seattle. … Mark Blount, averaging 19.6 points in his previous three games, had zero points and 11 rebounds. … Ricky Davis had a breakaway, 360-degree dunk in the secondquarter. … The Celtics also won five straight from Dec. 7-13.