BOSTON (AP) — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens suggested to forward Jared Sullinger that he might want to keep an eye on Kevin Love and try to learn whatever he could from the Timberwolves big man.
For one quarter on Monday night, Sullinger schooled the Minnesota all-star.
Sullinger had 15 points and six rebounds in the fourth, hitting a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 2:22 left and the Celtics held on to beat the Timberwolves 101-97.
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Sullinger, a second-year player who missed half of last season, had 24 points and 11 rebounds in all while adding a career-high five assists.
“He did take it up a notch at the end,” Stevens said of Sullinger, who made one 3-pointer all last season but pulled himself above 30 percent from the arc this season. “He’s a scorer. He’s always been a scorer. He’s been a scorer as long as I’ve known him. It never surprises me when scorers make plays.”
Avery Bradley scored 19 points for the Celtics, who won for the fifth time in seven games to hold onto first place in the Atlantic Division despite a 12-14 record that would be 12th-best in the Western Conference.
Love had 27 points and 14 rebounds for Minnesota, which has not won in Boston since 2005. But he was 2 for 11 from 3-point range as the Timberwolves, who hit a season-high 12 3-pointers at Memphis on Sunday, went 8 of 29 from beyond the arc.
“I shot the ball good, it just didn’t go in,” Love said. “It was that way for all of our team. … We shot the ball pretty bad the whole game. We beat that team the majority of the time we play them.”
Love hit a 3-pointer to give Minnesota a 92-90 lead with 3:48 to play, then Jordan Crawford tied it from the right baseline. Sullinger missed a baby hook putback for Boston, but Alexey Shved missed a 3-pointer and Sullinger then hit his 3 from the top of the key to give Boston the lead for good.
“We made the right plays and I happened to be the beneficiary,” Sullinger said. “I was just wide open. I passed up a lot of shots in the third quarter when I was wide open.”
Stevens said he’d like to see Sullinger do that more.
“Kevin is considered an elite NBA player, and Jared is a rising NBA player. You look up to those guys, you study them and you figure out what they do to make themselves elite,” Stevens said. “If there’s a person in basketball that you can identify with, those are good guys to learn from.”
Boston led 95-94 when Sullinger grabbed the rebound of J.J. Barea’s miss and made free throws with 18 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Nikola Pekovic missed a dunk, then Sullinger grabbed another rebound and made one of two free throws with 14 seconds left to help ice it.
After Love missed a 3, Sullinger grabbed another rebound.
Bradley had 10 points in the first quarter to help the Celtics open an eight-point lead. Love had six points and five rebounds for Minnesota after one, but it was Luc Mbah a Moute who led the Timberwolves in the second quarter, scoring seven points with four rebounds to help them open a one-point lead before Sullinger’s free throws just before the half gave Boston a 51-50 edge.
Pekovic scored the first seven points of the second half — all but a free throw in the lane — to help the Wolves take a 57-51 lead. But Boston went on a 17-4 run to turn the six-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
NOTES: Berea had 10 points and 11 assists for Minnesota. … Minnesota F Dante Cunningham needed to be helped from the court after he was fouled by Sullinger with just under 4 minutes remaining in the game. … Minnesota beat Boston 106-88 in their only other meeting this season, on Nov. 16. … The Timberwolves played their third game in four nights. … First-round Boston draft pick Kelly Olynyk had nine points in 14 minutes in his second game back after missing 10 with a sprained right ankle.