Celtics hold off Timberwolves

By Andres Ybarra

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Paul Pierce scored 31 points as the Boston Celtics held off the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-90 on Monday night.

The Celtics still have a chance to secure homecourt advantage through the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Boston needs to win its last game at Atlanta, and Detroit must lose its remaining games against New Jersey and Milwaukee.

After trailing for most of the game, Minnesota took advantage of Boston's cold fourth quarter shooting and used a 19-8 run over the last eight minutes to pull within 91-90.


But Wally Szczerbiak, who had been 5-of-5 from the free-throw line in the quarter, missed both attempts after being fouled by Rodney Rodgers with 31.2 seconds remaining. The Wolves got one more chance after getting the rebound off Szczerbiak's second miss. But Kevin Garnett, who shot a cold 8-for-23 from the floor, missed his shot after faking Tony Battie into the air.

Pierce hit two free throws on the other end to make it 93-90 and Garnett missed his final shot at the buzzer.

Garnett led the Wolves with 20 points.

Minnesota used a variety of defenders on Pierce, but to no avail. The 6-6 forward used his quick moves and superior athleticism to frustrate the Wolves on defense -- including a remarkable driving layup over two Minnesota defenders, drawing a foul in the process.

Pierce drove down the right side on a breakaway, shook off Szczerbiak, and then threw up a blind shot over Rasho Nesterovic that banked high off the glass and went in. Pierce even seemed amazed at the play, smiling as he walked to the free-throw line.

In another instance, the Wolves coaches yelled at Anthony Peeler to guard Pierce as he moved without the ball on another breakaway. Pierce, while smiling at Minnesota's bench, pointed down at Peeler, and then shook him off for an easy layup.

The Celtics used a 13-for-17 performance from the field in the third quarter to take control of the game. The Wolves went 9 for 30 in the quarter.

Boston's physical defense frustrated the Wolves, as it swiped for every ball and clogged the lane with Pierce, Antoine Walker and Battie, who had an impressive blocked shot on Nesterovic, sending the ball into the scorer's table.


Pierce made Szczerbiak look silly on defense in the first half, scoring 10 straight points in a stretch during the first quarter on a variety of jumpers. Pierce also caught Minnesota's defenders off-guard with his speed, slashing to the basket and drawing fouls.

The Celtics twice led by 12 points in the first half.

Notes: Wolves G Terrell Brandon sat on the sidelines with the team for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in February. ... Walker and Garnett are two of four players to be averaging at least 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. ... Delk returned after missing five games with a groin injury. Delk surpassed 800 career rebounds with three against the Wolves. ... The Wolves lost for the first time against an Atlantic Division team (6-1).

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