Timberwolves 109, Celtics 107
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The losses keep piling up for the Boston Celtics, one after another to bring them to one of the low points in the proud franchise’s championship-laden history.
And the Celtics dipped even lower on Sunday, not just because they lost their franchise-record 18th straight game, but because of how they lost it and to whom.
“It is tough, the guys played so hard and deserve to win,” said Paul Pierce, who scored 29 points. “We did everything we could. Down the stretch they made the last play.
“You can feel it in the locker room, each loss definitely hurts. These guys are going to keep playing hard. We just need to get it out of our head.”
After hitting the shot in front of the Celtics bench, Davis posed with his arm in the air, then got a bear hug from Blount to add just a little extra sting.
“It’s special when you get traded together with a guy like Mark,” Davis said. “He feeds off me and I feed off him and it was just a great feeling for us to beat them. Mark came over and gave me that big hug, he got me going so it’s just a great feeling.”
Pierce tried valiantly to out-duel Garnett and Davis, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter to provide a steadying presence these young Celtics have sorely missed.
The Celtics led by 10 points in the first half and 107-105 with 1:17 to play after Pierce fed Al Jefferson for a dunk.
But Garnett tied the game with two free throws, then got a steal on the defensive end to give the Wolves a chance to win it with 3.6 seconds left.
“Paul had to help. Paul had no choice,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He is beating himself up in there, but he did the right thing. He had no choice but to help on that play.”
The Utah Jazz also lost 18 straight in 1982 and seven teams have lost 19 games in a row. And the Celtics still have a ways to go to get to the NBA record for 24 straight losses that belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a streak that spanned the end of the 1981-82 season and start of the 1982-83 season.
Boston was in control for the first 2 1/2 quarters before two of Pierce’s old teammates brought Minnesota back.
Davis, who spoke openly about not wanting to be the first team to lose to Boston since Jan. 5, had 18 in the period.
“It was very important for us, pride-wise at least,” Davis said for him and Blount. “It was a big game for us.”
But even as Boston’s lead disappeared, with Davis’ 3 from the corner giving Minnesota a 74-68 lead midway through the third period, Pierce held the Celtics together.
Pierce returned on Friday night against New Jersey after missing the previous 24 games with a stress reaction in his left foot and an infection in his left elbow. He was expectedly rusty in a loss to the Nets, scoring nine points on 4-of-16 shooting in 20 minutes.
In his second game back, and first start since Dec. 20, Pierce played 32 minutes and steadied the reeling Celtics with a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter that gave Boston an 88-87 lead and started a back-and-forth final period.
“It is amazing how much better we are when you add that guy,” Rivers said.
Pierce’s 3-pointer from the elbow gave Boston a 105-101 lead with 3:20 to go, and he smiled at Davis and Blount as he strutted back to the other end, convinced that things were finally going to go Boston’s way.
Once again, however, the Celtics fell apart down the stretch with three turnovers in the final 90 seconds.
“Tough one, Tough one,” Rivers said. “I loved the team though.”
: It was Garnett’s 18th career triple-double and second in the last three games. He had one last Wednesday against Golden State. … Szczerbiak (ankle) and Olowokandi (illness) did not make the trip. Rivers said there is a chance Szczerbiak will play on Wednesday. … The standing-room only crowd of 19,538 was just Minnesota’s fourth sellout of the season.