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Timberwolves 110, Celtics 100

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves took advantage of an injury-riddled Boston lineup to do something They hadn't done in six years: Beat Boston.

With Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett injured and Paul Pierce away from the team for personal reasons, the Wolves uses their bruising frontcourt to beat the Celtics 110-100 on Monday night at Target Center.

Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, playing after missing a game with a sprained ankle, started strong and finished with a season-high 29 points and five rebounds. Forward Dante Cunninham added 19 off the bench for Minnesota, which hadn't beaten Boston since Feb. 11, 2007, a string of 11 straight losses. Forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams added 17 and 11 points, respectively.

The victory was the 998th of coach Rick Adelman's career. The Wolves (27-46) need to win two of their final nine games for Adelman to become the eighth NBA coach with 1,000 wins.

Boston (38-36), working hard to overcome the injuries and remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, was led by Avery Bradley's 19 points. Jason Terry and Terrence Williams each scored 14 points off the bench.

The Celtics shot the ball well (51.9 percent from the field). But the Wolves' offense was hard to stop. Minnesota got to the free-throw line 27 times, making 25, and scored a season-high 23 points on the fast break.

But the real leaders? The starting frontcourt, which totaled 57 points.

The Wolves scored more than 100 points for the fifth time in seven games while winning for the third time in five games. The Celtics lost their second straight and for the seventh time in nine games.

Pekovic had 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field in the first quarter, which ended with the Wolves leading 27-25. Four of those baskets came courtesy of assists from Ricky Rubio, who had four in the quarter.

Pekovic added six points in the second quarter as the Wolves tried to distance themselves. Their lead grew to six before the Celtics came back to tie the score at 45 on Courtney Lee's 3-pointer.

But the Wolves responded by finishing the half on a 12-7 run -- with Pekovic scoring four -- to lead 57-52 at halftime.

The Wolves opened the third quarter on an 11-4 run -- with Kirilenko scoring five and Pekovic four -- as the Wolves' lead grew to 12. After Boston scored two straight baskets, Minnesota scored six straight, with Kirilenko's steal and dunk making it 74-62.

The Wolves still led by 11 late in the quarter, but the Celtics finished it on a 7-2 run to pull to 84-78 entering the fourth quarter.

NOTES: The Celtics not only played without Garnett and Pierce but also were missing Rajon Rondo, who is out for the season. Garnett missed his sixth straight game with left ankle inflammation. Pierce, meanwhile, was not with the team for personal reasons. Pierce turned his right ankle in New York on Sunday, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his absence was not injury related. Asked if he remembered the last time the Celtics played a game without Pierce, Garnett and Rondo, Rivers laughed. "Vividly," he said. "About five years ago. It has been awhile." Rivers hopes to have a handful of games with both Pierce and Garnett back before the playoffs begin. ... Pekovic returned to action after missing a game with a sprained left ankle. Pekovic has missed 16 games with various injuries this year after missing 19 of 66 games with injuries last season. Still, Adelman is not concerned about Pekovic being able to stay healthy long term -- if Pekovic modifies his game, adding some finesse. "That rather than just banging all the time," Adelman said. "He needs to mix things up a little bit."
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