Final: Celtics 85, Wolves 82. It wasn't easy, but the Celtics have finished off the Timberwolves to snap a two-game losing skid. Their 25-point lead withers away, but they hold on for a three-point victory over the Wolves at the Target Center.
Paul Pierce finishes with 23 points and seven rebounds; Kevin Garnett has 13 and 12. The C's win without Rajon Rondo, which they haven't had to do since before New Year's.
Michael Beasley drops 28 in a losing effort for Minnesota.
The Celtics hop on the plane right away. They'll be taking on the Indiana Pacers on Monday night in game two of a four-game road trip.
Fourth quarter, 2:00, Celtics 79-75: Kevin Garnett knocks down a jumper, and the C's follow that up with a stop.
They just might survive this thing.
This game hasn't been pretty, but a win's a win. The C's look like they might get one.
Fourth quarter, 2:57, Celtics 77-73: Pierce scores again. Now he's got 21, and the Celtics are up four. The Wolves are back on their heels.
Kurt Rambis calls for a timeout. He's got some work to do.
Fourth quarter, 3:26, Celtics 75-73: Paul Pierce drives the lane, gets to the rim, lays it up and gets fouled. He finishes the three-point lead, and Boston's lead is back to two.
Pierce has been big down the stretch. When the Celtics need a bucket, he finds a way.
Fourth quarter, 5:46, Celtics 72-70: Delonte West chucks a 3. No dice. Anthony Tolliver comes down with a big defensive rebound and calls timeout. The Wolves are still in business.
One big reason the C's have coughed up a huge lead tonight: their 3-point shooting. As a team, they're just 4-for-14. Pierce is 2-for-7, Ray Allen is 1-for-4 and Delonte is 0-for-2.
These last six minutes, they need to work harder and generate good looks inside. They haven't done enough of that.
Fourth quarter, 7:36, Celtics 71-70: The Wolves briefly take a lead for the first time all night, but it doesn't last. Kevin Garnett comes up with an offensive board and a kick out to Paul Pierce for a 3.
Pierce is now 2-for-7 from long distance. Not great, but a heck of a lot better than 1-for-6.
Fourth quarter, 8:48, 68-68: We're all tied up, yet again. The Timberwolves refuse to quit.
What a night for Michael Beasley. The youngster has 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.
The C's have wisdom and experience, but these Wolves are young and hungry. They want this win.
Fourth quarter, 9:59, 66-66: Doc Rivers is letting his bench guys do their thing. Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Carlos Arroyo and even Sasha Pavlovic are on the floor together in the fourth quarter.
Pretty easy to see where Doc's coming from. These are the guys who're playing like they actually care, so these are the guys who play. Not rocket science.
End of third quarter, Celtics 64-62: Carlos Arroyo channels his inner Paul Pierce on the final possession of the third quarter, up-faking Wesley Johnson to draw contact in the act of a jump shot. He gets to the line and makes two free throws.
Still, the Celtics can't be happy. They let a 25-point lead wither away to absolutely nothing, and now it's back to two. This was supposed to be a blowout, wasn't it?
The C's have been humiliated in each of the last two quarters. In the fourth, they had better get to work.
Third quarter, 2:02, Celtics 62-57: The Celtics are playing like they want this one now. They're working hard for stops, crashing hard for defensive rebounds. They're giving a complete effort.
It's about time.
The one downside, though, is their shots still aren't falling. They've had a lot of good looks rim out.
They've just got to stay focused and keep at it.
Third quarter, 4:10, Celtics 57-54: Darko Milicic gets inside for a bucket. That's a 13-2 Timberwolves run and a one-possession basketball game.
Doc Rivers is steaming mad at the officials. He should redirect his anger.
It's the C's players that deserve the blame. Their focus still isn't there.
Third quarter, 5:36, Celtics 57-48: Uh-oh — the Timberwolves have closed this thing to single digits. Michael Beasley is absolutely killing it, with 16 points and five boards to lead the charge. The Celtics look like they're asleep on the job.
This is eerily reminiscent of Friday. Again, the Celtics have built a nice lead early and stopped caring late. Doc Rivers has to talk some sense into his team before it's too late.
Third quarter, 8:45, Celtics 53-41: Paul Pierce just shook the whole building with that bone-crushing dunk on Michael Beasley.
There's just no explanation for Pierce's explosion in dunks this season. He wasn't anywhere near this explosive last year.
Third quarter, 10:16, Celtics 49-36: It's just not Anthony Randolph's night. The big man's still crippled by foul trouble, and he still has zero points. And oh, yeah, he's still being guarded by the relentless Kevin Garnett.
Randolph tries to get a bucket inside, and he's whistled for a traveling violation. He's clearly very frustrated.
Can't say that I blame him.
Halftime, Celtics 47-34: After a masterful first quarter, the Celtics put up a lackluster second. The Wolves outscore them 21-15. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the C's just let the Wolves back into the game.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have nine points each to lead the Celtics; Kevin Garnett has six along with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Michael Beasley leads all scorers tonight with 12 for Minnesota.
The Celtics are still up by double digits, but they feel very, very vulnerable.
Second quarter, 2:54, Celtics 43-25: Looks like Paul Pierce has a small-ish cut on his finger. He's bleeding, so the Celtics call a timeout to get their captain quickly looked at.
The C's shouldn't be afraid to let Pierce sit for a few minutes. No reason to push him too hard with an 18-point lead over Minnesota.
Pierce does have nine points, six boards and two assists. He's had a nice night. But if some rest could help, then the C's shouldn't hesitate.
Second quarter, 5:45, Celtics 38-21: The Wolves are on a 6-0 run. All of a sudden, Doc Rivers isn't too happy with his ballclub anymore.
The Celtics' play has been far from perfect. Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic are really struggling to score inside — they're a combined 3-for-13. The C's offense is starting to look dry and predictable.
The onus is on Delonte West to push the tempo and run the offense with confidence. He's done it in spurts tonight. The C's need him to keep it up.
Second quarter, 8:44, Celtics 38-15: The Pistons picked Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade eight years ago. Unfortunately, Darko will always be remembered for that, and not for the fact that he's a fairly decent basketball player.
Darko just posted up Nenad Krstic for a bucket inside. He's played well tonight, not that anyone's noticing. He's got two points and two rebounds, but more important he's provided the Wolves with a strong presence inside.
Second quarter, 9:51, Celtics 36-13: The Wolves are getting slaughtered, and it's only getting worse. Anthony Randolph, their only contributor playing well these days, has been off the floor due to severe foul trouble.
Early in the first quarter, he picked up two quick fouls. Early in the second, he got his third. Randolph now has three fouls in three minutes.
He also has back-to-back games of 20 and 10. The Wolves need him desperately.
End of first quarter, Celtics 32-13: Rajon Rondo? Who needs him? The Celtics are blowing the Timberwolves away despite the absence of their best player. It's a 19-point game at the break.
Ray Allen has nine points; Paul Pierce has six. Kevin Garnett has four points, five boards, two assists and two steals. Nenad Krstic, Delonte West and Jeff Green are all chipping in a little bit. It's a total team effort.
The Wolves are shooting just 23.5 percent from the field. That's pretty awful.
Then again, this is exactly how the Celtics started Friday against the Bobcats, and we all know how that ended.
First quarter, 2:40, Celtics 30-10: The Celtics have made 12 of their first 15 shots, for 80 percent. The Wolves are 4-for-17, for 23.5. Now there's a disparity.
Both teams are without their star player, but the C's have the depth to overcome it. The Wolves are nothing without Kevin Love, while the green team is still loaded with weapons sans Rajon Rondo.
First quarter, 5:34, Celtics 22-5: Now it's a 17-0 Boston run. The Celtics are being ultra-aggressive, attacking the rim at every opportunity; the Wolves are settling for lazy jumpers and missing.
Paul Pierce is humiliating Luke Ridnour. Nobody that small can guard Pierce; he's just too crafty, using his body to draw contact and get to the line whenever he wants.
Pierce has six points, more than the Wolves' entire team.
First quarter, 8:03, Celtics 15-5: So much for the Wolves keeping this thing close. That's a 10-0 Boston run, sparked by five points from Nenad Krstic. The first-quarter beast is back.
That all happened so quickly. This was a tie ballgame a minute ago, wasn't it?
Kurt Rambis isn't happy. He needs a timeout.
First quarter, 9:44, 5-5: Hey, remember Michael Beasley? In Boston, he might be best known as the guy who sleepwalked through five games when the C's destroyed the Heat in the playoffs last year. But he's a new man in Minnesota.
Beasley just knocked down a 3 to tie this game at 5. He's feeling it early.
Actually, he's been feeling it all season — he's averaging 18.9 points per game.
First quarter, 11:23, Celtics 2-0: Delonte West isn't Rajon Rondo, this much we know. Proof comes early: Delonte takes a jumper with confidence on the C's first possession of the ballgame. And he makes it, too.
With Delonte in the mix, the Celtics have five legit shooters in their starting lineup. If the Wolves aren't ready, the C's could bury them early.
7:05 p.m.: One wild card in this game, with Delonte West starting at the point, will be the play of the C's backup guards. What happens when Delonte or Ray Allen is off the floor?
Carlos Arroyo will be the backup at the point. He's been solid in short bursts so far with the C's. Can he handle 25 minutes?
We may see Von Wafer at the two, backing up Allen. Is he healthy? Is he ready to bring it?
Lots of questions to answer. This will be an interesting game.
6:15 p.m: One guy is returning on Sunday night: Kevin Garnett, who returns to Minnesota to play in front of a fan base that adored him for over a decade.
One guy's not returning: Kevin Love, who has a groin strain and can't play Sunday against the Celtics.
Meanwhile, the C's have their own injury problems. Both of their point guards are in trouble — Rajon Rondo has a sprained finger, while Delonte West has a chipped bone in his ankle.
Rondo will sit this one out; West will take his chances and play hurt. He's starting for the first time this season. The last time he started in a Celtics uniform, in fact, was April 16, 2007. It went well — he dropped 28 points, four assists, four rebounds, three steals and a block in a win over the Heat.
8 a.m.: The Celtics open a four-game road trip on Sunday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves — on paper, a team they're supposed to beat. Then again, the C's have been losing to squads like that all week.
The C's suffered a bad loss at home on Wednesday night, 90-87 to the Memphis Grizzlies, and an even worse one Wednesday, 83-81 to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Both games ended with the C's getting a good look at a buzzer-beating shot to save their hides. And while both clutch shots came up short, that wasn't the main problem. There are bigger issues in play here. The C's aren't focused, they're not motivated and they're not playing team-first basketball.
They'll look to correct all those problems and more as they hit the road this week. First up are the T-Wolves, followed by stops in Indiana, San Antonio and Atlanta before the team returns home.
Playoff seeding is at stake, and every game is big. Every game will be a challenge, too.
That includes the Wolves, who are likely getting All-Star big man Kevin Love back on Sunday. The 22-year-old star has missed two games with a strained groin, but he's expected to make his return Wednesday.
The C's aren't so lucky. Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal are both considering rejoining the team during the road trip, but they won't be playing right away.
Doc Rivers' club has simply got to play with the bodies it's got. Those bodies have already produced a 50-21 record this season, and now they've got 11 games to go.
The C's and Wolves tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.