Kevin Love sits out again as Kevin Garnett, Celtics edge Wolves
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Boston Celtics played a home game at Target Center on Sunday, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 85-82 in front of an announced crowd of 19,175 that was mostly on the visitors' side.
"I didn't know there were that many Celtics fans here," Michael Beasley said with a sly smile.
And there was plenty for the Celtics "fans" to cheer about early on, as their team jumped out to a 22-5 lead in the first quarter courtesy of a 17-0 run and a first-half lead that reached 25 at one point.
Credit and a moral victory -- whatever that's worth -- must be given to the Wolves for not giving up after their slow start, which the Wolves have now officially turned into an art form.
The Wolves clawed back in the second half behind some inspired play by Darko Milicic, Beasley and Anthony Tolliver. But in the end, it was more of the same. An inexperienced, young Wolves team got outplayed down the stretch by an older, wiser, more confident opponent.
"Obviously, I wasn't too pleased with the start of the ball game," coach Kurt Rambis said. "We didn't start the game the right way, but after that, I thought our guys played great. I loved the way that they battled. I loved the way they got themselves back in the game.
"They fought, they scratched, they clawed and gave themselves a chance to win the game. I was really proud of them and how they were able to do that."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Rondo's injury was not serious and he would have played if this were a playoff game. But as one reporter pointed out, this was about the furthest thing you could find from a playoff basketball game.
The Wolves were also shorthanded, as Kevin Love missed his third consecutive game with a left hamstring strain originally suffered two weeks ago against the Utah Jazz.
Love was upgraded from doubtful to questionable for the game, but no further update on his condition was given. When asked how close Love was to playing, Rambis scoffed at the question with his trademark arrogance, acting like it was foolish to wonder how close the team's best player was to returning.
Love was not available for comment and did not watch the game from behind the bench. The Wolves have the optional practice Monday that is closed to the media so an update on his status won't come until Tuesday.
Anthony Randolph got his third consecutive start in place of Love but took a step backwards after scoring 31 and 24 in his previous two outings. He finished with just three points on 0-of-5 shooting from the field in only 16 minutes because of early foul trouble.
Tolliver picked up the slack, scoring 16 points and grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds in 36 minutes to provide the spark off the bench that was missing with the apathetic starting five.
"(Tolliver) had a hell of an impact on the ball game, rebounding the ball, shot blocking," Rambis said. "I thought he did a terrific job, not only with his defense but his offense, his energy, all of that style of play, that type of play is contagious. Everybody starts to feed off on it and it helps everybody.
Kevin Garnett returning to Target Center is no longer the must-see event it was after he was traded to Boston in 2007. but he still received a nice ovation from the crowd. The former Wolf scored 13 points, grabbed 13 boards and dished out five assists in 32 minutes of work.
The Wolves' brutal home stretch against the top three Eastern Conference teams continues Wednesday when soon-to-be MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls and wraps up Friday, when the polarizing Miami Heat make their only appearance in Minnesota.
"Clearly, this team has nothing to play for other than their pride and to play the roll of a spoiler," Rambis said. "It is a great challenge for our guys to be matched up against the elite teams, elite athletes, and elite players of this league. If you really love to play basketball and you really love to compete, you want to play against better people and better teams."