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Studs and Duds: Celtics clawed by Wolves, Karl-Anthony Towns 02.22.16 at 10:42 pm ET
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Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl Anthony Towns (32) shoots against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) in the first quarter at Target Center. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl Anthony Towns (32) shoots against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) in the first quarter at Target Center. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics had their moments Monday night. But not nearly enough to overcome an inconsistent road effort against a young and talented lottery-bound team. 

Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick last June, scored 28 points and hauled in 13 rebounds while Gorgui Dieng hit a key third quarter buzzer-beating 3-pointer as part of a double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) to lead the Timberwolves past the Celtics, 124-122, Monday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Jae Crowder led Boston with a career-high 27 while Avery Bradley hit for 19 points for the Celtics, who finished 1-2 on their road trip and fell to 33-25. 

Marcus Smart, who had an open Isaiah Thomas on his left, had a chance to win it at the buzzer but his contested pull-up three fell short. The Celtics finished the game on a 20-8 run, including an Avery Bradley three with six seconds left that cut the deficit to one, 123-122.

As well as the Celtics started a night earlier in Denver, Boston looked awful in the first 10 minutes of the game. Minnesota (18-39) started out shooting 11-of-14 from the field and out-rebounding the Celtics, 17-7. They built a 31-15 lead. 

Towns showed why he’s the franchise player in Minnesota in the opening quarter, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds. But the Celtics finished the quarter on an 8-0 to cut the deficit to 31-23 heading into the second quarter. Smart provided some key energy off the bench with three steals, including one a clear path with 1.4 seconds left in the quarter that help the Celtics close the gap. 

Bradley hit a three and Smart a runner as the Celtics opened the second quarter the way they ended the first, scoring the first nine points for a 17-0 run that gave them their first lead of the game, 32-31. As was the case 24 hours earlier in Denver, Boston’s bench was key, outscoring Minnesota 16-1 to start the game. After Boston took a 37-34 lead, Minnesota responded with an 18-4 run that had them scoring on eight straight possessions. 

Thomas missed his first seven shots before drilling a mid-range 15-footer with 1:48 left in the first half. The Celtics ended the first half on a 5-0 run to cut Minnesota’s lead to 59-53 at the break. The Wolves shot an improbable 61 percent on 25-of-41 shooting. 

Trailing 81-68 in the third quarter, Jae Crowder converted two consecutive three-point plays, one on a 3-pointer from the left wing and the other, a conventional one to cut the lead to 81-74 with just over three minutes left in the third. Crowder then drilled a straightaway jumper on the next possession. Crowder scored again on Boston’s next possession, part of his 16-point third-quarter that kept Boston close. But a killer 26-foot bank three from Dieng at the third quarter buzzer gave Minnesota a 93-84 lead heading into the fourth. 

Another play symbolized Boston’s frustration, trailing 111-100 with just over four minutes left, three Celtics were under the basket after a missed layup from Thomas. After a miss of a put-back by Evan Turner, three Celtics jumped up in the air and knocked the ball to the Wolves, who eventually built their lead back to 14. 

Former Celtics big man Kevin Garnett did not play for the Timberwolves due to a sore knee. He’s missed Minnesota’s last 12 games. 

After starting the post-All Star break portion of the schedule with three road games, the Celtics return home Thursday night against Milwaukee. 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Karl-Anthony Towns did everything you would expect from an overall No. 1 NBA draft pick. He carried the Wolves in the opening quarter and the Celtics didn’t have an answer for him all night. Crowder was a runner-up, scoring a career-best 27 points and keeping the Celtics in the game in the third quarter. 

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Isaiah Thomas. It had to happen sometime. Thomas started the game missing his first seven attempts from the floor before hitting three in a row. He then missed his next three and could never get into an offensive rhythm all night. He finished 8-of-20 on the night.  

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves,
Kevin Garnett on Celtics vs. New York fans: ‘Bostonians all day’ 12.21.15 at 7:36 am ET
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As Kevin Garnett arrives with the Timberwolves for what could be his last visit to Boston as a player, he’s coming off a 15-point victory against the Nets on Sunday in Brooklyn — his third of three NBA homes. So, the Minneapolis Star Tribune took the opportunity to ask the former Celtics superstar if he preferred Boston or New York fans.

“Bostonians all day,” said Garnett. “And they know that.”

While Garnett conceded he enjoyed his “living experience” in New York City and “playing before the crowd in Brooklyn was dope,” nothing tops winning a title in Boston, where he also made a second trip to the finals and a third appearance in the conference finals. “Every time I go to Boston I’ll have that sentimental feeling,” he said.

Garnett grabbed seven boards over 10 minutes in the 100-85 win against the Nets. The Celtics host his Wolves at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night. He is signed through 2017 for another $8 million, but there’s some speculation that as his minutes dwindle while he approaches age 40 that salary could be folded into a front-office gig in Minnesota.

Interestingly, Celtics coach Brad Stevens compared Jae Crowder’s tireless approach to the grit and balls that Garnett famously brought to the locker room whether it was practice time or Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

“I’€™m far from that. I can say that,” Crowder told reporters gathered at Sunday’s practice. “That’€™s a guy I look up to and I heard a lot of stories about him and that’€™s what I try to mold myself into being. I mean that’€™s an honor for him to say that, but I’€™m far from that. That’€™s a goal of mine to become a guy like him. That’€™s my approach is to try to become the most vocal leader at practice and when the cameras and stuff aren’€™t around.”

And how would Stevens know Garnett’s work ethic so well? Well, funny story about the two 39-year-olds …

“I was playing an AAU tournament with him on the court next to me,” Stevens told the media. “I don’€™t think I could be playing right now, physically, let alone as well as he does. But it’€™s pretty impressive what he’€™s done.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 4. Goodbye, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett 10.13.15 at 8:26 pm ET
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Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for preseason to play out.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 4 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

July 12, 2013: Goodbye, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

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Read More: 25 most consequential trades, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
Report: Kevin Garnett to return to Timberwolves 07.07.15 at 12:41 pm ET
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According to reports, Kevin Garnett will finish his career where he started it, with the Timberwolves.

The 21-year pro will reportedly sign a two-year deal with the same team that drafted him out of Farragut High School in 1995.

Garnett, 39, was traded to the Wolves from the Nets on Feb. 19. He spent the first 12 years of his NBA career in Minnesota before being traded to the Celtics in 2007. He and Ray Allen along with Paul Pierce spawned the Big Three that brought home the franchise’s 17th banner in 2008.

In five years donning the green and white, Garnett averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, earning an All-Star bid every year except for one. Last season with the Timberwolves and the Nets, Garnett logged 6.9 points and 6.6 boards in 20.3 minutes per game.

Garnett will have the chance to mentor young, rising stars like 2015 first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns and last year’s No. 1 overall selection and 2014-15 Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins.

The deal will not be official until the NBA’s moratorium on signings is lifted later this week.

Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Cady Lalanne would love to channel his inner Kevin Garnett in a Celtics uniform 06.03.15 at 4:00 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Cady Lalanne has his sights set high.

The 6-foot-8 big man from UMass with a 7-foot-5 wingspan would love to model his game after another big man who made quite the impression during his time with the Celtics.

“Since I started playing basketball in ninth grade, KG has been a player I love to watch,” Lalanne said of Kevin Garnett after his pre-draft workout Wednesday with the Celtics. “I remember I used to always go to the park and try his fadeaway that he had when he was with the Timberwolves. When he came here and won a championship, I was really excited. Even right now, I still watch him and try to learn from him.”

What makes him think he can play like KG?

“Rebound the ball and play defense, that’s the strong [parts] right now,” Lalanne said. “I still have a lot to work on. I’m just ready to work. I would love to [emulate him]. He can knock the 15-foot jump shot, hit the three here and there and you can always count on him on defense to get stops.

“I can knock down the 15 to 17-foot jump shot, make threes and give a full effort on defense and offense and do everything I can to help the team win.”

While he’s got a long way to go to match KG’s accomplishments, he’s already traveled quite the road to get where he’s in position to dream the dream.

He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He went to Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Fla. And he had to overcome not getting into his first choice (University of Georgia) because of academic ineligibility. But that didn’t stop him.

“Originally, it’s because I didn’t qualify. I signed with the University of Georgia and I didn’t qualify to go there. UMass and the whole A-10 is a “Prop 48” program. Coach [Derek] Kellogg started recruiting me so me and my head coach gave him a call. I didn’t get accepted to Georgia. The NCAA wouldn’t let me go to any schools except for the A-10 or the JUCOs. He told me he’d love to have me here so I came here, sat out the first year and was able to play the following year.”

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Read More: 2015 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Cady Lalanne, Kevin Garnett
Jimmy Butler: ‘If I didn’t have [Joakim Noah] on my team I would hate him,’ understands why Kevin Garnett doesn’t like Noah 01.17.15 at 1:55 am ET
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Joakim Noah didn’t play in Friday’s win over the Celtics, but he still managed to find his way into the box score with a technical foul in street clothes from the bench. The call sparked one of the loudest ovations of the night from the TD Garden crowd — a fan base that has despised Noah dating back to his battles with Kevin Garnett when he was wearing green.

Noah’s cockiness was something that Garnett and Celtics fans have come to hate over the years. So in typical fashion, Noah took credit for the Bulls run against the C’s, claiming it was his technical that sparked his team. Jimmy Butler was asked about Noah’s claim after the game.

“No comment, man. Jo always thinks it has something to do with him. That’s your guy. Look at him over there,” said a smiling Butler gesturing towards a laughing Noah on the other end of the locker room. “Something’s wrong with him.”

So, is Noah the type of player that you only love when he’s on your team?

“Yes, I always say that,” Butler said emphatically before the second half of the question was even posed to him. “If I didn’t have Jo on my team I would hate him. So hopefully he’s on my team for forever because I really would not like him if I was going up against him.

“He just talks too much. He gets on my nerves. I don’t know,” he continued while both smiling and shaking his head thinking he may have gone too far. “I love him because he’s on my team, but if we end up playing towards the end of each of our careers if we go separate ways we will end up fighting. I guarantee it.”

Butler’s honesty came as a little bit of a surprise. So this seemed like the perfect time to see if one of Noah’s own teammates could see things from Garnett’s point of view during the many altercations the two shared while the Big Ticket was still in Boston (and even during his time with Brooklyn).

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Butler said. “I think that comes with the game, you know, two fierce competitors that want to win. [They’re] really great at their position. That’s what your going to get. Especially out of that one,” he finished while gesturing towards Noah once again.

Even though Butler is open minded enough to see things from Garnett and the Boston fans’ point of view, he is very grateful to have Noah on his side.

“Jo makes everyone around him play harder, dive on the floor, take a charge, because when you see how emotional he is you know that he’s really into the game,” expressed a now more serious Butler. “You want to go to war, you want to battle with a guy like Jo.”

Look, Jimmy Butler does not dislike Joakim Noah, “Jo’s my guy,” Butler said multiple times in the locker room. But Celtics fans may just find it refreshing to know that someone in the Bulls locker room can justify that he too would hate Noah if he were an opponent. KG might even find it a bit gratifying as well.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah
Hawks represent a “machine” Brad Stevens is familiar with: Could Boston model Atlanta’s success? 01.15.15 at 3:23 pm ET
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Back in 2007 the Celtics inspired the NBA when they put together what became known as the Big Three. Since then, the Heat accumulated their own successful trio, which LeBron James is now trying to replicate in Cleveland. Teams around the league are all scrambling to put together their own Big Three, but superstars are not easy to come by. Danny Ainge has found that out since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Meanwhile, after collecting an impressive victory in Boston without two of their top players, the Hawks are far from scrambling in search of stars. Sitting at 31-8, they’ve lost just two games since Thanksgiving. The first-place team in the Eastern Conference? It’s not the Bulls, the Wizards and certainly not LeBron’s struggling Cavs. That would be the Atlanta Hawks.

After the C’s loss on Wednesday, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley all referred to the Hawks as a “machine.” So what is it that makes this particular machine so good?

One key is balance. All five of the Hawks’ starters average at least 11.9 points, but it’s not just about scoring. They can all rebound the ball, starting with the front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. They can all distribute the ball, but the head of the monster is the crazy-quick Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver is “the most challenging player in the league that averages less than 13 points to prepare for,” according to Stevens. That can be attributed not only to Korver’s lights-out shooting from downtown, but the fact that if he’s doubled he knows how to pass out of it and if his man leaves him it’s an automatic 3-pointer. Then there’s Demarre Carroll, a do-it-all type player with the ability to drop 22 points like he did on the C’s when other starters sat out, despite being the least heralded of the five.

Bottom line is that it’s a tough group of players, but even tougher when you see how fantastic they all gel together. On top of that, Atlanta has seven players coming off the bench that all average over four points, so depth isn’t an issue. Depth is also something the superstar-less Celtics seem to have, but with such a young team they have been unable to find the same type of cohesiveness that the Hawks have.

“I think you have to look and redefine who the superstars are with our own eyes everyday, right?” Stevens said following the game when asked about how Atlanta wins without superstars. “And so I would argue that they’ve got a couple guys on their way. And I don’t know what qualifies a superstar, but I know this: Nobody in the league can keep Jeff Teague in front of them. Nobody. And [Dennis] Schroder — I’m not saying he’s a superstar yet, he’s a young kid –but nobody can keep him in front of them. And then they space it with shooters, so now it’s a basketball team, right? And Millsap’s been and All-Star, Horford didn’t play tonight, he’s been an All-Star, Korver didn’t play tonight, he’s a really good player. So they’ve got a great group and it fits well, and you might have a budding superstar in that group, right?

“The other thing that I’d say about them that stands out, jumps off the page, jumps on the page when you’re coaching against them, jumps off the page when you’re watching film: Big-time savy,” the coach continued to gush. “The game comes really easy to them. It’s slow on defense. They can see things coming. They play well together. They know the biggest threats. They react to the biggest threats. And offense, they stay spaced to make the right basketball play time and again. And I agree with you that the superstar thing and factor is a big part of this, but there’s something to be said about a group that just — it’s like a machine. They’re a machine. They’ve really got a good thing going already.”

Another thing that makes the Hawks so good is their coaching. With Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the team has taken on a new identity since his arrival in 2013, and this may be a machine that Stevens recognizes. Budenholzer coached under Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, winning four championships in the process. The Spurs have been an organization that Stevens has practically been obsessed with since he’s been on an NBA sideline, now the Hawks might be joining that same elite class.

It seems like the Spurs/Hawks’ style is the type of play that Stevens is most interested in coaching, it’s ultimate team basketball, which might be played best in a superstar-less system. In other words, the Celtics greatest success may come from Danny Ainge searching for the perfect fits in Boston while his youngsters develop, rather than waiting for the next KG trade to fall into his lap. Ainge has been actively working the trade market of late, so he certainly isn’t waiting around, but he may want to take a look at the Hawks blueprint if he wants to taste the champagne again soon.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
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