Celtics blow huge lead, still beat T'Wolves, 85-82

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Celtics blow huge lead, still beat T'Wolves, 85-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MINNEAPOLIS Oh no, not again!

The Boston Celtics came out dominating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Then the game got close.

After that, they found themselves in an nip-and-tuck battle with a team that won't even sniff the postseason.

Sound familiar?

Too many times lately, the Celtics have found themselves having a hard go at it against teams that, for most of this season, have been going nowhere.

Fortunately for the Celtics, that 25-point lead they built - and eventually lost in the fourth quarter - didn't go to waste completely, as the C's (51-21) managed to escape with an 85-82 win.

Paul Pierce led all Celtics with 23 points, 12 of which came in the fourth. Kevin Garnett had his 25th double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Minnesota's Michael Beasley led all scorers with 28 points while Anthony Tolliver came of the Timberwolves bench and scored 16 points to go with a game-high 15 rebounds.

To open the game with such a dominate showing - Boston led by as many as 25 points in the first half - only to have to cling to dear life down the stretch, certainly proves that the Celtics still have a ways to go before they regain the form that led many to believe they were the best team in the East.

For now, they'll simply settle for a victory that snapped a two-game losing skid.

The C's tried their best to put on a brave face, doing all they could to give the look that everything was OK.

"Wins are great," said coach Doc Rivers.

Said Pierce: "It's good to play in close games. You realize in the playoffs, there's going to be a lot of close games. It's all about execution, being on the road."

But the more Pierce thought about the game and how the C's played, he soon delivered what we've come to expect from him - the Truth.

"We should have been more consistent throughout the game, could have been a double-digit win," he said. "But hey, we'll take it."

And that's what has to be disturbing about this team, right now.

Far too often, they seem complacent rather than overly competitive.

Rivers and his players chalk it up to the team just going through one of those funks that all teams, good and bad, go through during the season.

But their problems seem to be deeper than that, primarily because their problems don't seem to change from one game to the next.

In recent days, Rivers has used words like 'soft' and 'selfish' to describe his team's play at times.

Had they lost to the Timberwolves, which would have been a season-high third straight defeat, you could have added the word 'sad' to the list.

Although there's still time, Chicago (53-19) has the record and the game of late to claim the top spot in the East. And Miami (50-22) is finally figuring out how its three stars can co-exist and lead the team to victories over quality opponents.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are muddling their way to the regular-season finish line, producing the kind of results we saw a year ago.

But this team and their play should not be compared to last season's team, which advanced to the NBA Finals as a fourth seed.

A year ago, Rivers was limiting his core players to ensure that they were well-rested for the playoffs.

This season, the C's are simply losing games to bad teams.

And while Sunday's win is certainly a step in the right direction, the Celtics have to know that they have to step their game up significantly in the coming weeks if they are to have any shot at bringing home Banner 18.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Catch the highlights of the Boston Celtics 109-100 win over the Indiana Pacers at home and hear from Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford.

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

BOSTON – As Avery Bradley made his way to the middle of the post-game media scrum inside the Boston Celtics locker room, he was informed that he had played 39 minutes in their 109-100 win over Indiana.

“I played 39?” Bradley said. “Man, I’m not even tired.”

And that may be the clearest sign to date that Bradley, a defensive pest who has been pestered by injuries this season, is as healthy as we’ve seen him in some time.

In addition to scoring 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, he also grabbed eight rebounds, dished out a couple of assists, had a steal and was the head of the defensive snake that made life as hard as possible on Paul George who still managed to have a big night scoring the ball.

For Bradley to play so many minutes is a bit of a surprise when you consider how overcautious the Celtics were with his return from a right Achilles injury that kept him out for 18 straight games.

Bradley attributes the Celtics having some time off leading up Wednesday’s game.

“It was good for us and we were definitely prepared (on Wednesday),” Bradley said. “And it showed we’re improving every day as a team. We’re really locking in when we need to.”

And while he was one of three different primary defenders on George (Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder were the others), Bradley was the guy head coach Brad Stevens turned to most consistently down the stretch.

Bradley was the only Celtic to play all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. The only other players that were on the floor for the entire fourth quarter, were Indiana's Monta Ellis and George.

You think Bradley was out there to shut down (2-for-10 from the field) Ellis?

Uh … nope!

“He (Bradley) was on Paul some,” Stevens said. “Not the whole time he was in. Marcus (Smart) guarded him a lot. Jae (Crowder) guarded him some as well. We just felt like we had to rotate bodies on them. I did not plan on playing Avery quite that many minutes.”

Stevens put Bradley back in the game to start the second and fourth quarters, something he normally does for Terry Rozier who did not play (coaches decision).

“And he maybe sat a minute at the end of the second,” Stevens said. “So that’s 24 minutes and usually it’s about twelve-to-fifteen.”

The additional playing time is something Bradley certainly isn’t going to ever complain about.

The same holds true for the Celtics having clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s tip-off.

“I don’t think anyone talked about it,” Bradley said. “We were just treating this like any other game, try to be prepared, go out there and execute the offensive game plan … I feel we did a great job of doing that.”

Indeed, the Celtics are playing with a flow and overall rhythm that’s making it extremely tough on their foes.

“If you look at their roster, everybody knows what to expect out of everybody,” said Paul George. “There’s never a moment where a guy is like, ‘What kind of shot are you taking?’ or ‘what are you doing?’ They are beyond that.”