By A.Sherrod Blakely
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.
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.