BOSTON • The Boston Celtics may be leading the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference standings but they, too, can have days when it just would not happen for them.
Things did not look especially bright on their offensive end on Friday but, fortunately, their opponents also struggled.
The Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves both hovered under 40 per cent shooting for most of the night at TD Garden, before Boston pulled away in the fourth quarter to capture a 91-84 victory.
Marcus Smart had 18 points off the bench to pace the Celtics. Kyrie Irving finished with 16 points on six-of-16 shooting and contributed eight assists while Aron Baynes doubled up with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Terry Rozier also added 14 off the bench as Boston's reserves out-scored Minnesota's 42-20.
With the win, Boston (32-10) followed up their 102-88 home thumping of the defending Eastern Conference champions the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday with their fifth straight victory.
But it was a hard-fought contest that included 15 lead changes, and the Celtics finally turned the tide late in the the third quarter.
Points Boston's bench scored in their win over Minnesota, outscoring the Timberwolves reserves by 22 points.
They had missed 12 of their first 14 shots of the third and were down 48-55 with less than five minutes left in the period.
But they made eight of their next 11 shots, closing out the third on a 17-7 scoring run.
"Tonight was one of those games where every last one of us from the starters to the guys coming in off the bench were ready," Smart said.
The Celtics also withstood a 25-point, 23-rebound performance from Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns.
Jimmy Butler added 14 and Jamal Crawford had 13 off the bench for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota (24-16) lost their 12th straight game in Boston and have not beaten the Celtics on their home court since March 6, 2005.
The Timberwolves have also played their fifth straight game without starting point guard Jeff Teague, who is sidelined due to a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee.
Boston's Al Horford experienced soreness in his left knee and was questionable to return at half-time, but he started the second half. He finished with seven points and eight assists.
Meanwhile, Boston's Marcus Morris sat out to let his knee recuperate but he was due to play this morning (Singapore time) at Brooklyn.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was pleased to see his team hang on despite their offensive struggles.
"To win a game like that against a really good team when you can't make a shot - that's a good thing," he said.
"You're going to have nights like that. You've just got to find a way."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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