Final - 2OT
  for this game

Celtics outlast Timberwolves for fourth straight win

Mar 4, 2007 - 10:18 PM BOSTON (Ticker) -- In pushing their winning streak to four games, the Boston Celtics have been waking up early and staying late.

For the second straight afternoon, the Celtics went to extra minutes and emerged with a victory, outlasting the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves, 124-117, in double overtime.

Delonte West scored 17 of his 31 points after regulation and added 10 assists for the Celtics (17-42), who are a surprising 5-4 since a franchise-record 18-game losing streak. Boston held a 57-32 advantage in rebounds as it survived a triple-double by Kevin Garnett and a pair of tying 3-pointers.

"We are getting ourselves in a rhythm," Celtics star swingman Paul Pierce said. "Guys are starting to feel confident with themselves. It just feels good to be on the winning side of things. I'm starting to get as healthy as I've been in a while. It's good to win some games."

On Saturday afternoon at New Jersey, the Celtics erased a seven-point deficit in the final minute of regulation for an improbable overtime win. Back at home Sunday, they played a rare second straight matinee, which stretched into the late afternoon.

"I really don't like playing early in the day. It's rough," Pierce said. "Both games we didn't really shoot the ball well, but hey, we found a way to win."

"It was new to me this year and it threw me a little," Boston second-year forward Ryan Gomes said. "To go from playing a 1 o'clock game and then to playing a 12:30 game was strange, but I guess we're 2-0 when we play these early games, so maybe next year's schedule will have some more matinees for us."

Pierce scored seven points in a 13-4 surge that gave Boston a 90-85 lead with 1:30 left in regulation. But in the final 25 seconds, former Celtic Ricky Davis hit a 3-pointer, West left the door open with a missed free throw and Troy Hudson forced overtime with a shot from the arc.

"I wanted to commit the (intentional) foul," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "That's why we were so upset. Twice actually we tried to commit the foul - or at least we were supposed to - and we never did."

It was more of the same in the first OT, when Al Jefferson and West scored seven points apiece. West's two free throws gave the Celtics a 107-104 lead with 14 seconds to go before Garnett - 7-of-43 from the arc this season - drilled a 3-pointer to tie it.

Garnett stayed hot, making three jumpers to give Minnesota a 115-113 lead with 2:36 left. But after West tied it with a bucket, Garnett missed jumpers on the next two possessions, leading to two free throws by Pierce and a nifty layup by Jefferson, who added a free throw on the next possession for a 120-115 lead with 48 seconds to play.

That was enough for the Celtics, who pulled down a season-high 23 offensive boards - two more than the Wolves had on the defensive end.

Pierce had 27 points and nine rebounds and Jefferson added 20 and 14. Gomes collected 21 points and 17 boards in a staggering 52 minutes off the bench, also doing his best to contain Garnett.

"I think if you look at those games we won, it came down to defense - getting stops and hitting the boards," Gomes said. "Earlier in the year, we were focused a little more on the offensive end than the defensive end. You can't win games that way."

Davis had 35 points and nine assists and Garnett had 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. However, they could not prevent Minnesota's sixth loss in seven games.

"We hit a little patch and we've been struggling to find some different combinations on the court," said Davis, who received a warm welcome from the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden. "But guys just need to keep playing hard and we'll keep getting better."

At the end of the first OT, West made two free throws to give Boston a 105-102 lead. On the next possession, Gomes fouled Davis as he launched a leaning 3-pointer.

Referee Violet Palmer - unfairly taken to task by Celtics radio personality Cedric Maxwell earlier this week - initially and correctly ruled a three-shot foul. But the call was changed to a two-shot foul, infuriating Minnesota coach Randy Wittman.

"Violet had it as a three, and then I don't know what happened," he said. "So the other two had to have guessed, because obviously everyone has watched it and it's not even close. Not even close and to guess, that's not right. That cost us a game.

"And then they give me the excuse, 'Well, there are so many feet involved in the play.' Are you kidding me? They couldn't tell whose feet were whose? That's their job!"