Al Horford’s return sparked the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. Coupled with Jae Crowder returning to the lineup, Boston is healthy again and looking like a team to compete in the Eastern Conference.
The Minnesota Timberwolves won’t be competing until they find more consistency.
Horford and the Celtics travel to Minnesota on Monday night, having won four of their past six games. Horford scored 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals for Boston (7-6) in Saturday’s 94-92 victory at Detroit.
“I felt really good,” Horford said. “It was just very frustrating these past few weeks, dealing with a lot of different things. Finally I was at the point where I felt good enough to play.”
Horford was Boston’s prize free agent acquisition in the offseason, but he has been limited to four games because of a concussion. Crowder also returned Saturday for Boston after missing seven games with an ankle injury.
With the two starters back, the Celtics were at full strength with Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk going back to the bench to boost the second unit.
Horford scored with 1.3 seconds left and provided a key block on the other end to preserve the Celtics’ win over the Pistons.
“We didn’t call a timeout in the last four minutes. They just played,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I felt like we had a good lineup in there to score and get to the basket, those types of things. Guys made the right reads and right plays.”
Minnesota (4-8) was also on the road Saturday. But the Memphis Grizzlies stifled the Timberwolves’ high-scoring offense in a 93-71 Memphis victory. Minnesota shot just 39.1 percent from the field and were held below 92 points for the first time this season.
In the process, the Timberwolves slipped to 15th in the NBA in scoring at 105.0 points per game. Minnesota had 16 turnovers and was outrebounded 46-34.
“There are three things — your defense, your rebounding and your turnovers — that put you in position to win,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Two of those three we did not do well enough to win.”
Andrew Wiggins was held to seven points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field in the loss. Wiggins had sparked the team offensively, averaging 33 points per game in his previous six games.
“That was a rare night for that kid,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said of Wiggins. “He’s an animal.” Wiggins will draw the defense of Crowder, who gives Boston a taller look after the team had started the 6-foot-4 Smart the previous five games. Horford could match up with Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 17 points and three rebounds on Saturday, or Gorgui Dieng, who finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Minnesota split four home games last week before traveling to Memphis. Monday will be the Timberwolves’ sixth game in 10 days.
“We didn’t play with energy,” Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said of Saturday’s game. “It was like we were the ones who playing back-to-back.”
Copyright © 2016
TTWN Media Networks Inc.