The Celtics were able to sneak out of Minnesota with a win on Wednesday night despite an ugly first half, defeating the Timberwolves 104-102.
Jones and Scal go at it!
The Celtics totaled just 44 first-half points, which is tied for their third fewest in a half this season. Boston finished the first half shooting just 15-of-46 (32.6%) from the field and 5-of-22 (22.7%) from deep, but it was their attention to detail in other aspects of the game, paired with Minnesota's poor shooting, that kept them alive.
Following Monday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets, head coach Joe Mazzulla expressed some new concerns he had surrounding his team. Mazzulla specifically pointed to free throws, rebounding, turnovers, and second-chance opportunities.
On a night the team opens the first half shooting 32.6%, you need to find success in those areas, or else it’s going to be a long night, and that’s something the Celtics were able to do on Wednesday night.
Boston held the Timberwolves to five offensive rebounds, resulting in just five second-chance points in the first half. The Celtics were also able to keep the rebounding battle close in the first half, as each team had 28 apiece at the half. Sure, the Celtics certainly benefited from a rough shooting night from Minnesota, who finished the first half shooting just 16-of-44 (36.4%), but Boston was able to do some good things on the defensive end.
On the offensive side, the Celtics were able to limit their turnovers, as they finished the first half with just three, tied for their second fewest in a half this season. The Celtics finished with just nine turnovers on the night. It was the eighth time this season Boston turned the ball over fewer than 10 times in a game.
Another encouraging note: Boston attempted 30 free throws on Wednesday night. It was the ninth time this season the C’s attempted at least 30 free throws, and just the sixth time they did it in a non-overtime game.
The Celtics responded to Mazzulla’s concerns, as it was their attention to detail that kept them in the game before the Celtics’ offense woke up in the third quarter. The problem for the Celtics was that when their offense heated up, so did Minnesota's, as each team shot at least 55% in the third quarter.
Entering the fourth quarter leading by just six, and with Jayson Tatum continuing to struggle, the Celtics needed an answer. Luckily for them, they have two superstars, and with Tatum’s struggles continuing, it was Jaylen Brown that answered the call.
Brown came out firing in the fourth quarter, as he scored all of Boston’s first 15 fourth-quarter points. Brown scored or assisted on 18 of Boston’s 27 fourth-quarter points, as he finished with another monster night. Coming off a 43-point, five-rebound night on Monday, Brown finished Wednesday night with 35 points and 10 boards.
But in the end, it was the man who has been under the most scrutiny of late, Grant Williams, that sealed the deal. It hasn’t been easy for Williams recently. His minutes have dropped drastically, even recording a few DNP-CD’s in recent weeks, but Williams made the most of his 26 minutes, especially when it mattered at the end.
With just seven seconds remaining, and the Celtics leading by two, it was Williams who came up with this clutch offensive board…
Despite Mazzulla frantically calling for a timeout, the officials did not grant the timeout, which led to a jump ball between Williams and Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert. Williams would come through, although the play wasn’t without controversy, with Gobert saying after the game that Williams “stole the ball” on its way up.
After the game, Mazzulla praised Williams for his rebound, saying, “Big time play… Grant’s humility and professionalism to be ready to play and make a play like that is the reason why we have a chance to be a good team.”
With the win, the Celtics are now 2-1 as they hit the halfway point of their six-game road trip.