MINNEAPOLIS, March 28 – The Boston Celtics, staring at another damaging defeat, dug in defensively and emerged with an 85-82 NBA victory over Minnesota on Sunday.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points with seven rebounds and Kevin Garnett added 13 points with 13 rebounds against the team he once led.
Boston, who surrendered a 13-point lead in a home loss to Charlotte in their last outing, led Minnesota by 25 in the second quarter but had fallen behind by the middle of the fourth period before Pierce and Garnett came through.
"You’ve got to work to win them all," Garnett said. "Tonight was no different."
Michael Beasley had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing All-Star Kevin Love for the third straight game because of a strained left groin.
A three-pointer by Anthony Tolliver gave the Timberwolves an unlikely 73-72 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Pierce responded with a three-pointer to take back the lead. Garnett added a turn-around jump shot and another basket to hold off Minnesota.
"I feel like we showed a lot of character," said Beasley, whose team has lost seven straight. "We could’ve just let them beat us by 60 points. But we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win the last two minutes."
The Celtics were without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who strained his right little finger in practice on Saturday.
Delonte West started in his place and scored eight points with five assists, helping the Celtics avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Boston coach Doc Rivers had been harshly critical of his players’ "selfish" attitudes after the loss to Charlotte on Friday.
That was their sixth defeat in 10 games, a lackluster stretch that let surging Chicago snag the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Rivers’ scolding appeared to wake up the Celtics, whose 23-3 scoring run in the first quarter gave them a big lead.
"I thought we had a terrific first quarter," Rivers said. "The ball was hopping and we kept the game simple. But then we started outthinking ourselves out there."
While the Timberwolves showed impressive resiliency, the Celtics managed to get the job done at the end.
"They made us sweat," Pierce said. "We were up 20. I’m just happy we got the win."