BOSTON – Paul Pierce scored 23 points to help the Boston Celtics overcome a double-digit deficit — and another double-digit rebounding performance by Kevin Love — and beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-93 on Monday night.
Love had 24 rebounds and 12 points, but he airballed a jumper with just over a minute left and Minnesota trailing by one. Michael Beasley scored 19, including Minnesota's last eight points, but his desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the backboard.
Ray Allen scored 20, Glen "Big Baby" Davis had 17 points and Rajon Rondo added 16 assists for the Celtics, who haven't lost to the Timberwolves since they traded Kevin Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007. Garnett missed his third straight game with a right calf injury.
The Timberwolves had the ball out of bounds and a chance to take the lead with 10.3 seconds left, but Luke Ridnour, with a clear path to the basket, was called for traveling (Allen swatted the shot away anyway). After Nate Robinson made a pair of free throws, Minnesota had the ball on the side with 1.8 seconds left, but Beasley couldn't get off a good shot.
Minnesota led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter before Pierce scored Boston's next 11 points, cutting the deficit in half and then making it a three-point game, 73-70, heading into the fourth.
Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 3:34 left in the left game to cut the deficit to 85-83 and then, after Beasley made a turnaround jumper, Pierce found Allen in the corner for a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. Shaquille O'Neal scored from underneath to give Boston its first lead since the first half.
Rondo laid in just his second basket of the game to make it 90-89 with 1:35 to play, then Love tried a 3-pointer that brushed the outside of the net as it came down. Davis, fouled on the fast break, hit both free throws with 73 seconds left to give Boston a 92-89 lead — its biggest since Allen hit a game-opening 3-pointer.
Beasley made another jumper, Rondo answered, and Beasley scored again before Rondo missed and Love grabbed his 24th rebound of the game. It was his 21st consecutive game with at least 10 rebounds, and the 31st time he has hit double digits in 35 games this season.
Beasley found Ridnour breaking for the basket down the lane, but he took too many steps before his shot was swatted out of bounds by Allen.
NOTES: O'Neal carried Rondo into the locker room before the game, cradling the 6-foot-1 point guard in his arms before gently putting him in his chair. O'Neal then asked: "Anything else, King Rondo?" Rondo said, "No, that's all for now." ... Minnesota fell to 2-18 on the road. ... Pierce missed his first four shots of the game, and he had just five points at the half. But he scored 15 in the third quarter. ... The Celtics trailed by eight points after one quarter, when Love already had 10 rebounds, and four at the half. Love had 15 at the break — more than everyone else on the floor combined. ... Minnesota PG Jonny Flynn returned after missing Saturday's game against New Jersey with a sprained right ankle.