BOSTON (AP) — Kevin Garnett sure looked as though he wanted to remind the Minnesota Timberwolves what they’ve been missing these last five years.
Garnett scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and remained unbeaten against his former team as the Boston Celtics beat the Timberwolves 104-94 on Wednesday night in Rajon Rondo’s return from a two-game suspension.
The Celtics improved to 10-0 against Minnesota since they acquired Garnett from the Timberwolves during the summer of 2007. They also won for the 11th straight time against Minnesota.
Asked if Garnett still liked to play against his old team, Boston coach Doc Rivers didn’t hesitate.
“What do you think?” he said.
When the reporter answered “yes,” Rivers smiled and replied: “That’s a good answer.”
Celtics teammate Paul Pierce, who scored 18 points, downplayed all that, saying Garnett just likes to face good young players such as Timberwolves forward Kevin Love.
“I think he just accepts the challenges of playing against some of the top players in the game,” Pierce said.
Minnesota is the only other team Garnett has played for in his 17-year career. Garnett looked motivated from start to finish, even coming out and swiping the ball out of Love’s hands in front of Boston’s bench early in the final quarter.
“We established the post, I thought, early on. I thought defensively we played with a lot of energy,” Garnett said. “We made them go to their second and third options, which is something they don’t like to do.”
Love could see Garnett’s energy sparked Boston’s other players.
“He’s intense,” Love said. “He’s K.G. He’s a guy that defensively, he’ll clamp down on you. He didn’t leave me out there more than once tonight, really clamped in.”
Boston went 1-1 without Rondo, suspended for his role in a scuffle during a game against the Brooklyn Nets last Wednesday.
Rondo had 17 points and 11 assists. Jason Terry scored 17 and Brandon Bass 12.
Love led the Timberwolves with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Nikola Pekovic had 14 with nine boards.
Minnesota went just 6 for 19 from 3-point range one night after hitting a season-high 13 3s in a win over Philadelphia. The Timberwolves also went 14 for 30 from the free throw line.
“We’re not going to win if we miss 16 free throws or whatever it was. That’s terrible,” Minnesota guard Jose Barea said.
Boston, which led by seven entering the final quarter, scored 11 of the initial 14 points in the fourth and opened a 90-75 lead on Terry’s 3 from the left wing with 7:50 to play. The Timberwolves went nearly 5 minutes without a basket.
The Celtics maintained between a 14 and 12-point lead over the next 3 minutes, keeping the Timberwolves from making a run by nailing a handful of free throws before a spinning, crowd-pleasing basket by Rondo made it 100-85 with 3½ minutes left.
The Celtics used a 9-0 run over 2 minutes to open a 67-61 lead on Terry’s 3-pointer midway into the third.
Minnesota, coming off a 17-point win in Philadelphia on Tuesday, scored the last five points of the half to grab a 51-47 edge at the break.
The Celtics opened the game 10 for 13, but cooled off late in the first quarter, missing six of their last nine shots and trailed 30-27 after one.
Love headed to the bench early when he picked up his second foul — both on offense — with 2:27 left in the first quarter.
NOTES: Minnesota held its opponents under 90 points in three of the previous four games — all wins. It’s a commitment to defense that coach Rick Adelman saw at the beginning of the season. “We’ve had a great work ethic,” he said. “The guys are working hard on it.” The Timberwolves entered having allowed the fourth-fewest points in the NBA. … Boston G Avery Bradley, sidelined since shoulder operations at the end of last season, said he expects to be able to practice in “one to two weeks.” … Rivers compared Love’s ability to rebound to that of Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. “I played with, I think, one of the greatest rebounders all-time — Dennis Rodman,” he said. “I watched him at the (London) Olympics and said, ‘He seems to know where the ball is going when it’s in the air.'” Love then went out and grabbed an offensive rebound on Minnesota’s first shot of the game. … Rondo got a loud ovation when he was introduced in the starting lineups. … Garnett played his 1,273rd game, one behind Minnesota assistant Terry Porter for 17th all-time.
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