Timberwolves can’t finish after hot start in Boston

The Timberwolves got the start they wanted, and almost got the ending they needed.

After thoroughly outplaying the Celtics for two and a half quarters Friday, the Timberwolves let Boston steadily erase a 17-point third-quarter deficit and ultimately rally for a 145-136 overtime victory at TD Garden.

It was what the Timberwolves wanted, but there were signs of progression for the team with a new coach and the NBA’s worst record. After blowing a 17-point third-quarter lead, the Timberwolves erased an 11-point deficit to send the game to overtime on a D’Angelo Russell 3-pointer.

“I know obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted, but to have that response and play at a high level,” center Karl-Anthont Towns said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t come out with the win, but I’m happy with the way we competed today.”

In his third game back since being sidelined by knee surgery, Russell tied the game 124-124 when he banked in a 3-point attempt with 8.6 seconds, but Boston made three 3-pointers on a 9-2 run that gave them a 135-129 with under two minutes remaining.

Russell pulled the Wolves within 135-132 when he made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:44 left, but Towns fouled Jayson Tatum on a 3-point attempt at the other end; he made all three, the first of 10 late free throws that iced the game for Boston.

Towns led Minnesota with 30 points and 12 rebounds, and Russell added 26 points and eight assists. Anthony Edwards finished with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Timberwolves.

“I thought they showed great composure all night,” coach Chris Finch said.
“We came out and we executed. We did a lot of things we talked about. But at the end of the day, it was a tough night for us out there.”

Tatum had a chance to win it in regulation but threw up an air ball instead, one of his two in the final seconds. They were about the only bad shots he took; he finished with a career-high 53 points on 16-of-25 shooting from the field and made 15 of 16 free throw attempts.

“He got hot,” Edwards said of Tatum. “There was really nothing we could do.”

Minnesota led by as many as 15 in the second quarter, and by as many as 17 in the third quarter, going up 82-67 on Jaden McDaniel’s 3-pointer with 7:04 left.

Boston chipped away, finally taking their first lead since the first quarter, 101-100, on a Payton Pritchard 3-pointer with 8:21 left. They led by as much as 11 before the Timberwolves roared back to tie it on Russell’s unlikely 3-pointer.

“We obviously can compete and give ourselves a chance. I think the next step is getting off to a good start, putting the whole thing together and finishing these games. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be finishing games and there shouldn’t be any excuse for us to beat ourselves, too. Teams are going to have to start beating us once we get it going. Why not now?”

After falling behind 4-0, the Timberwolves slowly started taking control of the first half, forcing 12 turnovers — 8 of them steals — to take a 66-57 lead at intermission. It was just the second time the Timberwolves took a lead into intermission since Chris Finch replaced Ryan Saunders as head coach on Feb. 22.

But the Celtics got hot from outside, draining 14 of their 19 3-pointers in the second half and overtime (14 of 27), ruining the strong start the Timberwolves were looking for. Kemba Walker made only 3 of 10 from behind the arc, but all three were after intermission and two were in overtime.

Tatum was 6 of 10 from 3-point range, while Towns led Minnesota by hitting 4 of 10.

“They hit some 3s at the end, especially in overtime,” Towns said. “We gave Kemba too much space. He did most of his damage in overtime, and they’ve got a lot of great players on their team.”

Read More