Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports

Celtics 117, Timberwolves 109: Celtics clinch playoff berth in win

Josue Pavon
March 08, 2018 - 11:46 pm

The Celtics topped the Timberwolves, 117-109 Thursday night in Minnesota for their sixth win in their last seven tries, and in doing so became the second team to clinch a playoff berth.

And it was the Celtics' sizzling offense that continued to impress. 

Setting the tone early, Boston got off to a hot start, tacking on 35-first quarter points before pulling ahead by 14 before halftime.

Running like a well-oiled machine, the Green's offensive attack took off throughout the first half; Marcus Morris caught fire right out of the gate, converting three consecutive field goals in the opening frame, and he led the C's in scoring with 14, while Marcus Smart's stifling defense rattled Minnesota's backcourt and helped hold the Timberwolves to just 18 second-quarter points. 

But six became  a common theme at the start of the second half, as the Celtics scored six points in a hurry before missing six consecutive field goals. That was when the Timberwolves took advantage by going on a 6-0 run, and eventually pulled to within six points of Brad Stevens' club. Well, not quite (but almost), Minnesota sliced its double-digit deficit to seven moments before the scariest moment of the night took place on a transition play by Jaylen Brown with 1:31 left in the third quarter.

Brown, who split the defensive duo of Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones on his drive to the hoop, converted on a slam dunk before his hands slipped off the rim. From there, the Celtic wing lost his balance and landed hard on his back and neck. Laying motionless on the court for three minutes before a stretcher was brought out, Brown was ultimately able to get back to his feet and walk off the Minnesota floor under his own power, and with an acknowledgement to the crowd in attendance. 

Brown exited the game with 14 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. 

The frightening moment left an eerie feel to end of the quarter, but the Celtics managed to hold on in the final frame when Kyrie Irving checked back in after an extended rest on the bench thanks to the performance of the second unit. Terry Rozier caught fire in the second half, as did Irving (specifically in the fourth quarter), alongside his All-Star teammate Al Horford. 

The dynamic duo were in one fluid motion in the final frame -- they combined for 15 of the C's 31 fourth-quarter points and shut the door on any potential Timberwolves comeback. Irving finished with a team-high 23 points, eight assists and Al Horford stuffed the stat-sheet with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Nemania Bjelica had his best game of the season for the Timberwolves, scoring a career-high 30 points, including six three-pointers to go with 12 rebounds. Taj Gibson's 18 points led the bench and Karl-Anthony Towns finished with a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds).

What was most impressive about the Celtics' offense all night was the ball movement and how many players were involved on the scoring end things as eight of 11 players had at least six or more points. The Celtics are now averaging 117 points a night since the All-Star break, while going 6-1 throughout that span. 

With their only post-break loss coming against the red-hot Rockets (currently on a 16-game winning streak), the Celtics will look to continue the momentum of this road swing back home when they host the Pacers at TD Garden on Sunday.

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