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Avery Bradley: ‘We didn’t play hard enough, consistently’ 02.23.16 at 12:20 am ET
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Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) is fouled by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) in the fourth quarter Monday night. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) is fouled by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) in the fourth quarter Monday night. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics nearly pulled off a miracle Monday night in Minneapolis.

But when Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning three fell short at the final buzzer, the Celtics were left to wonder why they couldn’t beat a Timberwolves team that came in with a 17-39 record.

“I feel like we can learn a lot from this game. We didn’t play hard enough, consistently, throughout the whole game,” said Avery Bradley, who scored 22 points in the 124-122 loss. “That’s the real reason we lost. We gave ourselves a chance.”

Bradley gave the Celtics a real shot when his three with 6.2 seconds left drew the Celtics to within one, 123-122. But after a Zach LaVine free throw, Smart dribbled up the right side and instead of dishing to a wide open Isaiah Thomas, he decided to pull up for a three of his own that fell short off the front iron.

“The last play, or anything like that, that wasn’t the reason we lost the game,” Bradley told reporters afterward. “We just weren’t playing hard enough on a consistent basis.”

The Celtics went small late in an effort to spread the court and space out the Minnesota bigs, who the Celtics couldn’t handle all night. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds while Gorgui Dieng added 17 points and 12 boards.

“They’re a young, athletic team as well. We let their young guys get going early, and it was hard to slow them down, to be honest,” Bradley said.

Towns served notice early that he was going to be a force, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the opening quarter.

“Yeah, we had no answer for him. We had no answer for him in any type of isolation I thought,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “That’s why we went zone for a couple of possessions, and actually played it pretty well. And then we just trapped everything late and played five guards and just tried to fly around. The problem with that was obviously rebounding.

“Towns had his way with us the whole night and obviously, their other guys did, too. Certainly, he stood out.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Karl-Anthony Towns
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,
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
The official Celtics-centric Kevin Love timeline 2.0 06.25.14 at 2:06 pm ET
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The Celtics-centric story surrounding Kevin Love actually began before the All-Star break, but Boston’s Love affair reached “Fatal Attraction” levels when the three-time NBA All-Star spent three days in the city a few weeks back.

Since then, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and Celtics counterpart Danny Ainge have seemingly pulled the puppet strings masterfully, casting sources in a drama worthy of Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. The plot thickens every day, so here’s the storyboard updated through the latest episode.

Rumored Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers offers have been put out to pasture. All the while, the C’s package remains with the possibility of Ainge sweetening the deal. If the Wolves are looking to trade Love — and it seems inevitable given his stated goal to leave via free agency next summer and the ensuing circus the past six weeks — then the Celtics still stand among the favorites (if not the favorite) for his services.

For further analysis, read about Ainge’s final play for Love.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Report: Celtics to offer lottery pick in package for Kevin Love 05.18.14 at 7:09 pm ET
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Kevin Love is “anxious” to leave Minnesota, and the Celtics are among a handful of teams in pursuit of the three-time NBA All-Star, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge reportedly plans to offer the team’s lottery pick as part of a package for Love. The lottery is Tuesday night.

Love has told the Timberwolves brass he plans to exercise his 2015 early termination option and sign elsewhere if he is not traded, according to ESPN. The Warriors, Lakers and Suns also covet Love, who reportedly sees Golden State and Chicago as attractive destinations. Any trade partner would require assurance he would sign a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension.

For more on the C’s pursuit of Love, similarities to the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007 and potential trade packages: “Double ’07: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love and Celtics Restoration.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA
Kevin Love on loss to Celtics: ‘[Expletive] happens’ 12.17.13 at 2:43 pm ET
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Count Kevin Love among those not overly impressed by the Celtics‘ 12-14 start.

“We beat that team the large majority of the times we play,” said Love, who recorded 27 points and 14 assists against a soft interior Boston defense, “but, like they say, [expletive] happens.”

Asked if he felt his T-Wolves gifted the Celtics a victory, Love added, “Big time. Big time.”

The Timberwolves (12-13) did hand the Celtics a beating in their first meeting, a 106-88 decision in Minnesota last month. Prior to this season, however, the two-time NBA All-Star owned a 1-10 record in his career against the C’s, but this is a different Celtics team under a different Celtics coach — a younger roster that plays equally as hard, even if Love isn’t prepared to give them a whole lot of credit just yet.

“We thought we could’ve beat that team,” said Love. “They executed down the stretch, but more than anything we beat ourselves.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA
Ricky Rubio on Rajon Rondo’s return: ‘It’s hard’ at 12:58 am ET
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Rajon Rondo has returned to practice, and, according to his coach, the Celtics point guard’s return is entirely up to him, but Ricky Rubio knows recovery from ACL surgery isn’t over when you step back on the court.

“It’s hard,” said Rubio, who scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 101-97 loss to the Celtics. “It depends on how he feels and how he tries his knee. It’s something I’ve been through, and I can tell you from what I’ve been through that it wasn’t easy. It took a tong time, and even when I was playing, it took a couple months for me to be myself again. Everybody’s different, so I wish and I hope the best for him, but from what I felt, it’s hard.”

Rubio tore his left anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments when his left knee buckled while trying to defend Kobe Bryant in the final moments of a loss to the Lakers on March 9, 2012, just under a year before Rondo tore his right ACL in the final minutes of a double-overtime loss to the Hawks on Jan. 25 of this year.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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