|Jared Sullinger, Celtics get better of Kevin Love, Timberwolves||12.16.13 at 10:16 pm ET|
It was a tight one for much of the second half, with the Celtics owning a lead as big as nine points in the second quarter, but leading by just one at the half. But big performances by Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, as well as contributions from the Celtics bench, pushed Boston past Minnesota, 101-97, as the Celtics split the season series with the Timberwolves.
With the lead beginning to slip away in the last minutes of the fourth quarter, it took a few big defensive stands and three free throws from Sullinger to give the Celtics a little breathing room. Sullinger would put the final nail in the coffin with a free throw with just one second left to give the Celtics a four-point lead.
Sullinger led the Celtics with 24 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five assists. He outplayed superstar Kevin Love in the fourth quarter with 15 points, including a big three to give the Celtics a 95-92 lead with just over two minutes to play. The forward was also 9-of-11 from the line and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Avery Bradley got the Celtics off to a hot start, scoring six unanswered to kick off the first quarter and scoring 10 points in the by halftime (though he was stuck at 10 for the entire second quarter). Bradley would finish with 19 points on the evening with five boards.
In his second game back from an ankle injury, Kelly Olynyk scored nine points with four boards, while also making some big plays that didn’t necessarily show up in the box score. He threw himself into the stands twice in the fourth quarter to save loose balls, with Courtney Lee ready to receive the pass on both occasions. Kris Humphries, who was also sidelined, missing the last two games with a bruised right knee, made his presence felt with eight points and seven rebounds. The bench came up big for both teams, with the Celtics reserves adding on 35 points and the Minnesota bench coming up with 45 points, including 12 from Dante Cunningham and 10 apiece from Northeastern product J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved.
The Timberwolves came into the night hitting about 44 percent of shots from the 3-point range in their previous four games, with Love hitting 17 of 29 from behind the arc. But the Celtics defense held Minnesota’s 3-point game in check, with the T-Wolves hitting just 27.6 percent of shots from 3-point range, while Love was just 2-for-11 behind the line.
The Celtics contained Love and the Timberwolves offense in the first quarter, holding Minnesota to 21 points while Love was just 1-of-7 shooting and 2-of-4 at the line. Love came alive in the second quarter, but was still just 3-for-11 from the field. Regardless, the MVP candidate notched his 22nd double-double of the season and was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points and 14 boards.
Wolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio was a surprising non-factor, shooting just 2-for-12 from the field and hitting just one three on the night.
With the win, the Celtics move to a full game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division and improve to 12-14.