Big 2nd half helps Celtics to 117-104 win over Timberwolves
BOSTON (AP) Injuries have prevented the Celtics’ core starters from spending much time on the floor together this season.
With everyone finally healthy with 14 games to go, they plan to make the most out of the games they have left before the postseason.
So far, they like what they see.
Isaiah Thomas scored 27 points to lead Boston past the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-104 on Wednesday night.
Al Horford added 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Celtics, who earned their 11th straight home win over Minnesota. Boston also increased its lead to 1 1/2 games over the Washington Wizards for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
”I think we need to understand the sense of urgency,” Horford said. ”It doesn’t matter who we play, what their record is. We’re playing for bigger things. So we have to make sure that we start to build these habits.”
Boston’s opening night starters of Thomas, Avery Bradley, Horford, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson improved to 21-7 together this season. They are 5-3 since Bradley returned to the lineup from a right Achilles injury late last month.
”As a mature team, you have to respect every opponent and that’s what we did tonight,” said Bradley, who finished with 18 points.
Ricky Rubio had a season-high 23 points to lead the Timberwolves, who dropped to just 10-21 on the road this season.
Boston led by eight entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Minnesota 32-27 in the final 12 minutes.
The Celtics got a 3-pointer from Jaylen Brown and a layup by Jonas Jerebko to extend their lead to 13 at the start of the fourth. That lead grew to as many as 19 at one point.
With the loss, Minnesota is now a full four games out of the final playoff spot in the West.
”Every game is putting us closer and closer or putting us farther and farther,” Rubio said. ”We took a step back today.”
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (17 points, 14 rebounds) posted his 51st double-double of the season. … Namanja Bjelica left the locker room on crutches and boot on his left foot. Coach Tom Thibodeau said he will be evaluated Thursday. … Lance Stephenson was helped to the locker room after being injured early in the fourth quarter. … Were held to just 17 points in the third quarter.
Celtics: Thomas extended his streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 44 games. … Thomas scored 14 points in the second quarter. … Wore special gold-trimmed green jerseys in honor of St. Patrick Day on Friday since they’ll be on the road.
Minnesota began the night 3 1/2 games out of the final West playoff spot, but Thibodeau said establishing a routine for his team is more important right now.
”If you look ahead and skip over steps, that’s how you slip,” he said. ”I don’t want that. I want them to understand where we are and what goes into winning each game.”
Guerschon Yabusele, who Boston selected with the 16th overall pick in last June’s draft, was at the Garden for Wednesday’s game.
Yabusele, from France, was one of two players the Celtics chose to ”draft and stash” in leagues overseas last year. The other was Croatia’s Ante Zizic, the 23rd pick last year.
Yabusele sprained his left ankle while concluding a season in the Chinese Basketball Association this month, and will be evaluated before the Celtics decide whether he’ll get any time with its Maine D-League affiliate this season. He said nothing’s been discussed about when he’ll join the Celtics.
”We didn’t talk about anything yet,” Yabusele said. ”I hope I can make the team and just play with those guys.”
Timberwolves: Continue road trip Friday at Miami.
Celtics: Begin two-game road trip at Brooklyn on Friday.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower