The future didn’t look especially bright on Friday night when two of the NBA’s contenders-in-waiting clashed in Boston.
The Celtics and Timberwolves both hovered under 40 percent shooting for most of the night before Boston pulled away in the fourth quarter to capture a 91-84 victory over Minnesota at TD Garden.
Marcus Smart had 18 points off the bench to pace the Celtics. Kyrie Irving finished with 16 points (on 6-of-16 shooting) and eight assists and Aron Baynes doubled up with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston (32-10) followed up its 102-88 thumping of the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Wednesday with its fifth straight victory.
The Celtics led 66-62 going into the third quarter before opening up a double-digit lead at 81-71 after a pair of Irving free throws with 6:59 remaining and kept their distance after that.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 23 rebounds, Jimmy Butler scored 14 and Jamal Crawford had 13 off the bench for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota (24-16) lost its 12th straight game in Boston and hasn’t beaten the Celtics on their home court since March 6, 2005.
The teams combined to shoot 38.8 percent from the field.
Boston’s Al Horford experienced soreness in his left knee and was questionable to return at halftime, but he started the second half. He finished with seven points and eight assists.
Meanwhile, the Celtics’ Marcus Morris sat out to rehab his knee injury, but he will play Saturday at Brooklyn.
Minnesota played its fifth straight game without starting point guard Jeff Teague, who is sidelined due to a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee.
A pair of Butler free throws gave Minnesota its biggest lead of the game at 55-48 with 4:53 to play in the third before Boston closed the period on an 18-7 run.
Towns piled up 14 points and 13 boards in the first half, his second first-half double-double of the season, but the Timberwolves were down 41-38 at the break. Neither side led by more than five in the half.
--Field Level Media