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Celtics hold on to beat T-Wolves

Mar 28, 2011 - 2:46 AM Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce finished with 23 points and seven rebounds as the Boston Celtics held on to top the Minnesota Timberwolves, 85-82, after blowing a 25-point first-half lead.

Kevin Garnett posted 13 points and 13 rebounds while both Nenad Krstic and Ray Allen scored 11 in the win, Boston's third straight on the road. The Celtics played without Rajon Rondo because of a jammed finger on his right hand.

"We have to work to win them all, tonight was no different," Garnett said. "Our first quarter ball movement was excellent, but (Minnesota) fought to get back in it."

The Celtics remained a half-game in front of Miami, which beat Houston on Sunday, for second place in the Eastern Conference. Boston is currently two games back of the idle Chicago Bulls for first.

Michael Beasley paced Minnesota with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Darko Milicic scored 15 with nine rebounds and Luke Ridnour added 10 points and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who played their third straight game without Kevin Love.

Love missed the game with a strained left groin, which he suffered against the Sacramento Kings on March 20.

The T-Wolves were held to only 13 points on 5-of-21 from the field in the first quarter as the Celtics took a commanding 32-13 lead. The Celtics began the second an a 6-0 run, capped by a pair of Krstic free throws, to widened their advantage to a game-high 38-13.

Boston's lead remained in double-digits throughout the quarter, however, a 13-4 Minnesota run trimmed its deficit to 47-34 at the half.

"We picked it up on defense and started getting back and playing defense very quickly," Minnesota guard Anthony Tolliver said regarding the second half. "They stopped getting easy (buckets), that always helps when you make a few shots yourself."

Minnesota continued to chip away in the second half, and an 8-2 run in the final minutes tied the game at 62. Carlos Arroyo made a pair from the line in the final second to give Boston a 64-62 advantage entering the fourth.

The T-Wolves took their first lead of the game, 70-68, with a Milicic layup just under four minutes into the fourth. However, Pierce answered with a three to allow Boston to regain its advantage.

After alternating the lead two more times in the following minutes, the Celtics used pairs from the line from Pierce and Allen to built an 85-78 advantage with 12.6 seconds remaining. Minnesota attempted a late comeback and after Beasley missed a three with 7.9 ticks remaining, Tolliver connected on the putback to make it an 85-80 game with 5.2 seconds remaining.

After a Pierce turnover, Tolliver's driving dunk in the final second accounted for the final margin.

Game Notes

The T-Wolves have now dropped seven straight overall and nine straight against the Celtics...Minnesota's last win against Boston came on February 11, 2007, when Garnett was a member of the T-Wolves...Tolliver finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds...The T-Wolves held a 49-42 rebounding advantage.