Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 2/6

Game 1: Sunday, February 6th
Game 2: Sunday, March 6th

Celtics 103

(24-24, 8-16 away)

Timberwolves 100

(24-24, 13-12 home)

    12:00 PM ET, February 6, 2005

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    BOS 22 26 29 26103
    MIN 20 25 31 24100

    Top Performers

    Bos: G. Payton 22 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Min: K. Garnett 21 Pts, 13 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Blk

    Pierce scores 32 in win

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Winning regularly requires consistent effort, a concept the Boston Celtics seem to have finally figured out.

    Paul Pierce scored 32 points, including 15 in the third quarter, to lead the Celtics past the Timberwolves 103-100 on Sunday.

    "I think we've been lackadaisical a lot of times," said Gary Payton, who added 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting. "A lot of guys have not been playing as hard as they should. And I think now we're playing together."

    Ricky Davis had 12 points for Boston, which won its third consecutive game and improved to 24-24. That's the same mark Minnesota has after losing its fifth straight.

    "It's amazing," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We're at .500 and ecstatic, and the Timberwolves are at .500 and think that the world is crumbling in around them."

    Minnesota had the ball last with a chance to tie, but Sam Cassell's contested 3-pointer from 29 feet at the buzzer came up well short of the rim -- allowing the Celtics to raise their road record to 8-16.

    The Timberwolves are just 13-12 at home.

    "When you lose, you lose some confidence," coach Flip Saunders said. "That's why you want to try to sneak one out to get back on the right path."

    After an embarrassing 29-point loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night, Minnesota has been a lot better in its last two games -- including an overtime defeat to Houston on Friday night.

    But that's no consolation for a team that was supposed to be one of the best in the Western Conference and began the day 1½ games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot.

    "We've been more competitive, but we're definitely not satisfied," Saunders said.

    Michael Olowokandi, whose play at center has been one of many problems, turned in the best game of his disappointing two seasons with the Timberwolves. He scored a season-high 21 points in 32 minutes to go with nine rebounds.

    "We need that out of Michael," said Fred Hoiberg, who had 14 points. "That would be a big thing for us if he can step up and play like that every night."

    Kevin Garnett had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota.

    "Y'all let me know if I'm starting to sound like a broken record," Garnett said, plopping down in a chair and sighing. "You don't give up. It's easy to give up."

    The Celtics closed the first quarter with a 15-4 run, taking a 22-20 lead. After holding a slim edge for much of the second period, the Wolves led for less than 37 seconds after halftime.

    Trenton Hassell, the Timberwolves' defensive ace, drew his fourth foul just one minute into the third quarter. With Hassell stuck on the bench and Wally Szczerbiak guarding him, Pierce hit his stride.

    "I just wanted to be aggressive regardless," Pierce said. "I don't want to just settle on taking jumpers. I feel like I have an advantage every night."

    Minnesota never once had consecutive field goals in the fourth period, but Hoiberg cut the lead to 101-98 with 1:01 left on two free throws.

    Garnett's turnaround with 10 seconds remaining pulled the Wolves within one, and Pierce answered with two foul shots -- setting up the final possession for Minnesota.

    Despite its mediocre record, Boston is the Atlantic Division leader -- a spot that would guarantee at least the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    "This team is starting to come together," Pierce said. "We're starting to develop some chemistry, some togetherness, and we're playing well right now."

    Game notes

    Payton didn't arrive in Minneapolis until 2 a.m. -- 10 hours before tipoff -- after spending Saturday in California with his mother, who had surgery. "She'll be all right," said Payton, whose team praised his performance. "Our young guys -- I hope they understand what he's done today. That's just unbelievable," Rivers said. ... Minnesota's Eddie Griffin sprained his left ankle and was limited to five minutes. ... Boston's Tom Gugliotta, who spent three-plus seasons with the Timberwolves, wasn't with the team because of the flu. ... Olowokandi, who fouled out in nine scoreless minutes against Houston on Friday night, recorded his first double-double this season. His previous high score with Minnesota was 14, against Dallas last March. ... The Celtics are at .500 for the first time since Nov. 21.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 103 100
    FGM-FGA 37-83 (.446) 38-81 (.469)
    3PM-3PA 3-12 (.250) 2-9 (.222)
    FTM-FTA 26-29 (.897) 22-25 (.880)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-40 9-44
    Assists 19 29
    Turnovers 7 10
    Steals 6 0
    Blocks 1 5
    Fast Break Points 12 9
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (1/0) 21 (3/0)
    Largest Lead 8 9

    Top Performers

    Gary Payton Payton
    Points: 22
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1
    Kevin Garnett Garnett
    Points: 21
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 2