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Welsch scores 14 of his 18 in final period

3/7/2004

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A shot to the nose woke up Jiri Welsch just
in time to lead the Boston Celtics to their fifth straight win.

After being hit by an elbow in the first half, Welsch scored 18
points in the second -- including 14 in the fourth quarter -- to lead
Boston over the Minnesota Timberwolves 80-77 Sunday night.

"I don't know if I got hit by one of their guys or our guys,"
said Welsch, whose nose was noticeably swollen after the
first-quarter shot. "I had to put some (tissue) up there to stop
the bleeding."

Welsch sat for most of the second and third quarters, but by the
time he came back the tissue was gone and he was poised to lead
Boston back from a 13-point deficit.

"I just let the game come back to me in the second half," he
said.

Chris Mihm had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench and
Chucky Atkins added 12 points for Boston, which won its fifth
straight after losing 12 of its first 13 games under interim head
coach John Carroll.

Boston's five-game winning streak matches its season high.

"I'm just happy Jiri was able to come back because we needed
it," Atkins said. "I didn't have any idea he would get hot like
that, but I'm glad he did."

Paul Pierce had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but shot
just 4-for-21 against defensive specialist Trenton Hassell.

"It's one of our biggest wins of the year against a team that
many people expect to be in the finals," Pierce said. "Kevin
Garnett is definitely the MVP in my eyes, but we are fighting for
our playoff lives."

Garnett had 20 points and 14 rebounds and Michael Olowokandi
added his first double-double of the season, but Minnesota lost
consecutive games for just the third time this season.

"We got up 13 and lost that killer instinct," Wolves coach
Flip Saunders said after his team lost for the third time in four
games. "This has happened two times in a week and its
disappointing."

Minnesota's Big Three -- Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell
Sprewell -- left the locker room before reporters had a chance to
talk with them.

Olowokandi had 10 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.

"This was a very difficult loss," said Olowokandi in a quiet
and mostly empty Wolves locker room. "This game will make you
better or break you down."

Boston's reserves scored 35 points on a poor shooting night for
both teams. The Celtics shot 33 percent, and Minnesota made just
35.9 percent of its attempts.

Pierce made two free throws with 1.6 seconds left before the
Wolves called timeout and set up a final play. Cassell, who scored
13 points, got open and launched a straightaway 3-pointer that went
off the front rim as the buzzer sounded.

After trailing 58-53 at the start of the fourth quarter, Welsch
hit two 3-pointers, a driving layup, two free throws and a jumper
to help the Celtics to a 74-68 advantage with 3:38 left.

Cassell hit a jumper and Troy Hudson hit his first shot of the
game after seven misses to make it 74-72 with 1:38 left. Minnesota
had a chance to tie it on the next possession, but Hudson missed a
floater. Welsch got the long rebound and raced down the court for
an uncontested dunk.

After a dunk by Garnett and two free throws by Atkins, Hudson
hit a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to make it 78-77.

Atkins scored Boston's first six points of the second half and
the Celtics took their first lead since the opening seconds of the
game, 41-39. But the Timberwolves went on a 12-2 run, capped by
Cassell's 3-pointer, to go ahead 52-43 with 6:04 left.

Minnesota extended its lead to 58-45 before the Celtics closed
the quarter with eight unanswered points.

The Celtics scored the first two points of the game, but missed
their next 14 shots -- with five of them blocked. Boston's starters
shot just 2-for-25 in first half.

Referee Michael Henderson was working his first game after
making a bad call that was publicly acknowledged by the NBA in the
final seconds of the Lakers' 112-111 victory at Denver on Feb. 26.

Game notes
Garnett also had six assists in recording his
league-leading 55th double-double. ... Sprewell is shooting just
24-for-71 (.338) in his last five games. ... Fred Hoiberg, who has
missed three games, said that his sprained wrist is getting better
and he hopes to play Tuesday at Seattle. ... Mark Blount, averaging
19.6 points in his previous three games, had zero points and 11
rebounds. ... Ricky Davis had a breakaway, 360-degree dunk in the
second quarter. ... The Celtics also won five straight from Dec.
7-13.