Someone finally solved the Celtics' defensive puzzle. The Minnesota Timberwolves shot 52 percent from the field -- the first Celtic opponent to better 42 percent this season -- but it wasn't enough as the Celtics took a 92-90 victory.
In the end, though, Celtic defending paid off as the team improved to 6-0.
Minnesota had a final possession after calling a timeout with 10.2 seconds remaining. But Rajon Rondo pressured Jonny Flynn, then committed a foul with 6.6 seconds on the clock. Corey Brewer then was tied up by Kevin Garnett on a drive, referee Dave Jones ruling a jump ball with 3.6 seconds on the clock. Brewer won the jump, but Rondo flipped the ball out of bounds with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Kendrick Perkins then blocked Al Jefferson's desperation 22-foot turnaround.
The Celtics, who play host to Phoenix tomorrow, did not hold more than a one-point lead in this contest until 5:34 remained.
Jefferson's low-post play got the Timberwolves off to a strong start, then Pecherov took over.
The Wolves were in control for most of the game, but the Celtic starters made a late stand. Rondo got a back door layup as the Celtics took an 89-88 lead with 4:18 left. Paul Pierce's three-point play gave the Celtics an 87-84 lead, their largest margin of the game, with 5:34 remaining. But the Timberwolves retaliated on a Brewer drive and Pecherov low-post move.
Perkins' second-chancer, off a Garnett assist, gave the Celtics a 91-88 lead and would be the clinching score. Perkins hit a foul shot with 91 seconds remaining. Pecherov cut the deficit from the corner with 1:14 left, the final Minnesota score.
Jefferson scored 13 points in the opening quarter as the Timberwolves led by as many as nine points. Thanks to Jefferson's hot start, the Wolves appeared capable of becoming the first opponent to solve the Celtics' defense this season. Minnesota was 13 for 23 after a quarter. But the Celtics' reserves changed the tone of the game in the second quarter, Rasheed Wallace's transition three-pointer tying the score, 31-31, 4:35 into the quarter.
But the Celtics did not rely on the reserves this time, going with the starters down the stretch.
4:15: CELTICS 89, WOLVES 88. Rajon Rondo got another back door layup as the Celtics took a one-point advantage 4:18 left. Paul Pierce's three-point play gave the Celtics an 87-84 lead, their largest margin of the game, with 5:34 remaining. But the Timberwolves retaliated on a Corey Brewer drive and Pecherov low-post move.
5:46. WOLVES 84, CELTICS 84. Ray Allen's first three-pointer (in seven attempts) of the game tied the score with 6:02 remaining. The Celtics then forced an Al Jefferson turnover and timeout was called.
8:45. WOLVES 80, CELTICS 80. Only two starters -- the Celtics' Paul Pierce and Minnesota's Oleksiy Pecherov -- were on the court to start the final quarter. Rasheed Wallace's three-pointer gave the Celtics their first lead, 75-74, 34 seconds into the final quarter. Eddie House's three-pointer tied it, 80-80, with 9:03 remaining, then Marquis Daniels made a steal and drew a foul.
0:00: WOLVES 72, CELTICS 72. The Celtic starters started departing soon after Rondo tied the score, 68-68, stealing an offensive rebound with 2:35 remaining. Rondo scored 10 points during a 14-6 Celtic run covering 3:36. The Celtics called a timeout and set up a final shot, Eddie House's three-pointer at the buzzer tying the score. This was only the second three-pointer by a Celtic reserve, a night after the bench had provided 13 for 16 three-point shooting at Philadelphia.
2:59. WOLVES 67, CELTICS 66. The Celtics finally started getting defensive stops late in the third quarter, limiting Minnesota to two field goals over a 3:45 span. The Celtics also started going to Rajon Rondo on back-door plays, Rondo scoring eight points in a 2:21 period, his transition layup cutting the deficit to one with 3:01 remaining.
5:59: WOLVES 62, CELTICS 56. Rajon Rondo stole a defensive rebound and Ray Allen's layup pulled the Celtics within six points 5:49 into the second half. The Celtic starters wanted to make a defensive statement to start the half, but Minnesota countered with the low-post play of Al Jefferson, the perimeter shooting of Pecherov, and Corey Brewer's drives.
WOLVES 49, CELTICS 41. Minnesota shot 52.5 percent from the field, Oleksiy Pecherov's back-door score providing an eight-point lead with 15.5 seconds remaining in the half. The Celtics called timeout, but failed to get off a shot before the halftime buzzer.
1:45: WOLVES 46, CELTICS 39. Corey Brewer's drive upped the Minnesota edge to seven points and improved the Timberwolves' shooting percentage to 54.1. Brewer also drew a foul on the play before a timeout was called.
6:42: WOLVES 33, CELTICS 31. Thanks to Al Jefferson's hot start, the Wolves appeared capable of becoming the first opponent to solve the Celtics' defense this season. Minnesota was 13 for 23 after a quarter.
But the Celtics' reserves changed the tone of the game in the second quarter, Rasheed Wallace's transition three-pointer tying the score, 31-31, 4:35 into the quarter.
WOLVES 27, CELTICS 22: An Al Jefferson 20-footer was annulled by a replay review after the end of the first quarter, Jefferson ending the quarter with 13 points. Jefferson made a quick-release shot with 1:58 remaining in the half which would have provided a 25-18 Minnesota lead.