BOSTON -- The surprising first-place Boston Celtics moved closer to the .500 mark by pulling out a 101-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
The win, Boston's second straight and eighth in the past 12 games, raised the Celtics, a team that was expected to be fighting for a lottery spot, to 12-14 on the season.
Forward/center Jared Sullinger hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Boston ahead to stay with 2:22 left. He went 4-for-6 from the foul line over the final 17.9 seconds to put the game away.
The Timberwolves, playing without guard Kevin Martin (knee) and his average of 20.6 points per game, fell to 12-13.
Sullinger led Boston with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Guard Avery Bradley, who scored the first six points of the game, had 19 points and five rebounds, and guard Jordan Crawford added 15 points for the Celtics. The Boston bench chipped in with 35 points.
Forward Kevin Love, who had a poor shooting night (9-for-26 from the floor, 2-for-11 from 3-point range), led the Timberwolves with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Timberwolves reserve guard J.J. Barea, a Northeastern University product, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
The Minnesota bench scored 45 points.
The Celtics earned their seventh consecutive home win in the interconference series.
Rookie forward/center Kelly Olynyk, 4-for-22 from 3-point range entering the game, drained both of his long-range attempts in the first half as the Celtics built an early nine-point lead. Boston had to hold off the Wolves to lead by one at halftime.
The visitors, who had 10 offensive rebounds in the half, hurt themselves at the foul line, going 11-for-19 in the first two quarters. Both trends continued in the third quarter, when the Celtics grabbed the lead with a 9-0 spurt and led by five at the end of three.
The win raised the Celtics' record on their current five-game homestand to 2-1.
NOTES: Minnesota G Kevin Martin, bothered by a sore left knee that limited him to 19 minutes Sunday, didn't dress Monday. "It's something I've got to get right," he said before the game. ... Celtics G Rajon Rondo, making his way back from February ACL surgery, is practicing and will decide when he's ready to play. "I think, ultimately, a person has to be ready and he has to feel good," coach Brad Stevens said before the game. "There are certain physical things that he'll have to meet to be cleared to even be considered for games, that he has not met yet. But nobody should make that call except for the individual involved, in my opinion." Stevens has indicated Rondo will make a January return. ... The Celtics continue their homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, while the Timberwolves host the Portland Trail Blazers the same night. ... Boston F Kris Humphries returned after missing two games due to a knee injury.