Hayward, Celtics too much for Timberwolves
BOSTON — Gordon Hayward was off target on all six of his shots in Boston’s previous game and then started with a pair of long misses on Wednesday night against Minnesota.
Then it quickly turned around.
A 3-pointer from the right side. Another from the left. A basket from the lane and then a dunk, followed by three straight free throws. In all, he was 4 for 4 in the second quarter and 7 of 8 in the third.
“He was disappointed in how he shot the ball, obviously, in San Antonio and got back in the gym this morning. And you could tell he was going to play pretty well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Hayward came off the bench to score a season-high 35 points and lead Boston to a 115-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“I mean, 14 for 18 is an unbelievable night, and you’re not always going to shoot it like that,” Stevens said. “But you could tell he was pretty locked in.”
Terry Rozier scored 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter while making his third start of the season because Kyrie Irving scratched both of his eyes in Monday’s game against San Antonio. Hayward took over from there in his highest scoring game with the Celtics.
“Gordon’s a good player, and we gave him basically whatever he wanted,” said Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who saw Hayward score 30 a month ago when the teams met in Minneapolis. “When you do that in this league, they’re going to make you pay.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 31 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 of his 28 points — and grabbed five of his 12 rebounds — in the third quarter, when Minnesota trimmed a 22-point deficit to six points. It was an 11-point game with 4:53 left before the Celtics went on an 8-0 run to clinch their fifth straight win over the Wolves.
Hayward missed all but five minutes of last season with a broken leg and has been coming off the bench the last six weeks as Stevens tries to figure out a rotation. On Monday night against the Spurs, Hayward had his only scoreless game of the season.
After missing his first two shots on Wednesday, Hayward didn’t stop shooting.
“Didn’t start that great … but Marcus Smart got me open for a 3 that got me going a little bit,” he said. “Anytime you have a game like I did last game, you want to try to come out ultra-aggressive.”
Towns said the problem was the team’s failure to maintain a consistent focus, comparing the sport to boxing.
“Boxing is such a great sport,” he said. “Those guys have to be focused every single second of every single round. We have to be focused; we have to think of ourselves like boxing. We have to make sure every single second we are tremendously focused.”
Minnesota scored nine of the last 11 points in the first quarter to trim Boston’s 11-point lead to 25-21, and then opened the second with a step-back jumper from Wiggins. It was a four-point game when Boston ran off 16 points in a row to take a 47-27 lead.
Boston led by as many as 22 in the third quarter before Towns scored 15 points during a 23-11 Minnesota run that cut the deficit to 10. He added five more in the final 90 seconds of the third to make it a six-point game.
Thibodeau called a timeout just 64 seconds into the game to settle his team down after giving up two quick baskets.
“The start of the game was poor,” he explained. “You start off a game like that, give them a little confidence, it’s hard to slow them down.”
Timberwolves: The last time Minnesota won in Boston was March 6, 2005. Kevin Garnett was a starter in his first stint with the Wolves. Ricky Davis led the Celtics with 22 points. … Robert Covington (right knee injury), Derrick Rose (right ankle sprain) and Jeff Teague (left ankle inflammation) were sidelined by injuries.
Celtics: Improved to 2-1 with Rozier starting. … Even without Irving, the Celtics set a season high with 34 assists … In addition to Irving, the Celtics were missing big man Aron Baynes, who missed his seventh straight game with a broken left hand. … The Celtics returned home after a 1-2 road trip to Texas and Memphis. They play four straight and 15 of 19 games at home in January and don’t leave the Eastern time zone until Feb. 21.
Smart left in obvious pain after absorbing a pick from Towns early in the second half. He walked over by the Celtics bench with his right arm dangling at his side. After Stevens called a timeout, Smart was ushered by the training staff into the tunnel to the locker room.
But Smart was back with about four minutes left in the quarter, getting a big cheer when he rejoined his teammates on the bench. He re-entered the game late in the third and finished with two points and eight assists.
The Celtics said it was a right shoulder strain.
Marcus Morris Sr. left the game in the third quarter with a sore neck and did not return.
Timberwolves: Home against the Magic on Friday night.
Celtics: Host the Mavericks on Friday night.