Gordon Hayward had a season-high 30 points and added nine rebounds and eight assists, helping the revived Boston Celtics win their third straight game by staving off the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-109 on Saturday night.
Hayward, now in a bench role after starting the season slowly, scored 11 of Boston’s final 15 points over the last 3 1/2 minutes of the game and made four of five shots from 3-point range. Kyrie Irving pitched in 21 points and nine assists, Jayson Tatum added 19 points and nine rebounds, and Marcus Morris had 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range for the Celtics. They lost eight of 12 games before starting their streak.
Derrick Rose scored 26 points for the Timberwolves, who fell to 9-4 at home and 7-3 since trading All-Star Jimmy Butler. Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 points and nine rebounds and Robert Covington had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves, who allowed more than 103 points for the first time in eight games and saw their four-game winning streak stopped.
Despite missing six of his eight attempts from 3-point range, Irving was the natural catalyst for the Celtics for much of the night. When Andrew Wiggins couldn’t quite corral a loose ball at the top of the key on Minnesota’s end in the third quarter, Irving snagged it and raced the other way to feed Tatum for a lob pass and an easy dunk for a 67-55 lead by Boston.
After beating San Antonio by 39 points on Wednesday, the third-largest margin of victory in franchise history, the Wolves played just well enough to stay within striking distance the whole game and just lackluster enough to lose. Six of their 16 turnovers were traveling calls, part sloppy footwork and part bad luck.
Rose, who could find himself in a contest this spring with Hayward for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, did his best to provide the energy and production off the bench. He opened the fourth quarter by sinking a mid-range jumper and hit a 3-pointer to bring the Wolves within 89-86. On their next possession, his bounce pass through traffic in the lane set up Gorgui Dieng for a three-point play and a tie game for the first time since early in the second quarter.
But after the Wolves were within 103-101 on Covington’s pair of free throws, Hayward took over.
Hayward, who has struggled often in the first quarter of the season in his comeback from that gruesome ankle injury he suffered in the 2017-18 opener and needed the better part of a year to heal from, has begun to rediscover his rhythm more recently. The ninth-year forward swished consecutive 3-pointers during a 21-7 surge the Celtics used in the second quarter to build a lead as big as 57-43. Morris hit back-to-back 3-pointers to begin that run.
The Celtics are in the middle of a rough month-long stretch of the schedule without consecutive home games and eight of 13 contests on the road. This visit to Minnesota, the night after playing at home in Boston, was already their eighth road game against a Western Conference team this season.
“There’s no excuses to be made,” coach Brad Stevens said. “You just play the next one.”
Celtics: Forward Jaylen Brown missed his third straight game because of a bruised lower back. He warmed up before tipoff but was ultimately still too sore to suit up. … Backup center Aron Baynes had five fouls in 16 minutes.
Timberwolves: After missing 17 of 18 shots, including all 10 of his 3-point attempts, against Chicago a week ago, Covington has gone 20 for 38 from the floor and 10 for 23 from 3-point range over the last three games. … Wiggins had 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
Celtics: Host New York on Thursday, after losing 117-109 at home just 10 days ago to the Knicks, who have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.
Timberwolves: Host Houston on Monday, the first of three matchups this season with the Rockets, who beat them 4-1 in the first-round playoff series last spring.
Source: The Associated Press